By Aaron Kesel
A U.S. Senator called for an end to facial recognition in airports due to lack of oversight on the technology. Meanwhile, facial recognition is spreading across the U.S. in schools everywhere according to a report.
Sen. Ed Markey, D-Mass., brought up several issues with facial recognition technologies and warned against moving forward without sufficient protections for data being collected, during a hearing held by the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation’s Subcommittee on Security on the use of biometric tech, Nextgov reported.
“As we work to keep pace with emerging threats to aviation travel, civil liberties cannot be an afterthought,” Markey said. “The public lacks enforceable rights and rules to protect travelers’ privacy and address unique threats that TSA’s biometric data collection poses to our civil liberties.”
Markey questioned TSA operations at Denver International Airport using its Chief Operations Officer, Chris McLaughlin, to express his concerns about the programs.
“Do you agree that any collection of Americans’ biometric information at airports should always be voluntary?” Markey asked.
“Yes, I do,” McLaughlin replied.
“Do you agree that TSA should enact enforceable rules and take all necessary steps to ensure that biometric data it collects is secure?”
“Do you agree that TSA should enact binding safeguards to ensure that its use of biometric technology does not disproportionately burden or misidentify people of color?”
“I agree with you. I agree with all of your answers,” Markey said. “We’re, however, quickly moving toward a point of no return when it comes to the deployment of facial recognition technology.”
Markey called on TSA to halt deployment of facial recognition technology given these lack of protections to Americans' civil liberties, problems with misidentification and accuracy which has failed numerous tests from local police to federal law enforcement.
“TSA should stop using these invasive tools in the absence of formal rules that reflect our values and protect our privacies,” he said. “I call upon the agency to formalize these rules. It’s absolutely essential. We should not be moving forward until we’ve decided what those protections are going to be.”
Some of the biggest airports in the U.S. — estimated at 16 airports across the nation — are now scanning us as we board international flights. CBP (Customs And Border Protection) expects to scale up the program to cover more than 97 percent of passengers flying outside of the U.S. by 2021 according to Nextgov.
Further, the policy director of U.S. CBP believes that facial recognition has already become essential. The agency’s head Deputy Executive Assistant Commissioner John Wagner has also hilariously said that its facial tracking technology isn’t surveillance, as Activist Post reported.
In 2017, Homeland Security clarified their position on domestic spying stating that Americans who don’t want their faces scanned leaving the country “shouldn’t travel.”
“The only way for an individual to ensure he or she is not subject to collection of biometric information when traveling internationally is to refrain from traveling,” the DHS wrote in a document.
Trump’s executive immigration order on January 27th, 2017 — best known for suspending visitors to the U.S. from seven majority-Muslim countries — also included an article expediting the biometric exit program. The order further stated that there will be three progress reports to be made over the next several years on the program. Trump’s executive order in March built on that, specifically limited biometric scans at the border to “in-scope travelers” or those who aren’t U.S. or Canadian citizens.
Meanwhile, as a Senator is calling for a halt to the TSA roll out of facial recognition cameras in airports, across the country the tech is being adopted more and more in schools as a safety measure, Gov Tech reported.
"Large cities like Chicago and Detroit, frequently courted by companies, have seen a recent push towards widespread adoption, while school districts in cities in states as diverse as Florida, Texas, Missouri, and Colorado, among others, are also seeing investment," Gov Tech wrote.
Activist Post previously reported that facial recognition was coming to schools in the United States after numerous school shootings over the years, and that these centers of "higher learning" were installing police-grade surveillance “gunshot-detection systems,” metal detectors and even biometric locks requiring facial recognition or a person’s iris.
Shockingly, or perhaps not, some schools are even suggesting to install non facial recognition cameras in student bathrooms to protect students, as Activist Post reported last year. Although that decision caused outrage amongst parents.
Facial recognition security cameras are heavily flawed. The ACLU’s New York branch raised concerns in an open letter to the New York State Department of Education, expressing that the Lockport school district (one of the first to use facial recognition) has failed to provide information about data retention policies, while adding that the technology is heavily flawed and invasive.
This brings up several notable questions highlighted by the ACLU about these facial recognition cameras in schools.
- Who will have access to the database? Will it be shared with local law enforcement or federal enforcement authorities like ICE?
- Who is being added to the “unwanted person” database? How does someone get on that list and how might they get off of it?
- Will this technology be used to track who students associate with? Will it be used to crack down on minor misbehavior and enforce code of conduct violations, as indicated by one email from a school official?
Congress as a whole has weighed in on the debate, earlier this year, legislators called for putting a “time out” on facial recognition technology until regulations are in place. So far, Congress has held two oversight hearings on the topic and there are at least four bills in the works to limit the technology.
However, Amazon and FaceFirst want a say in the regulations of the technology two companies that have a big stake on whether the technology is allowed or not as Activist Post has reported.
On top of that, some cities in the U.S. have outright banned the biometric technology like San Francisco, Somerville, Massachusetts, and Oakland, California, as Activist Post reported.
The rapid growth of this technology has triggered a much-needed debate to slow down the rollout. Activists, politicians, academics and even police forces all over the world are expressing serious concerns over the impact facial recognition could have on our society.
Fight For The Future has previously launched a first-of-its-kind interactive map that tracks where in the U.S. facial recognition technology is being used and where it is being resisted, along with a tool-kit for local activists who want to help kickstart a ban in their city or state, as Activist Post reported.
Image credit: The Tenth Amendment Center
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