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Homeland Security Proposes Plan Using Face Scans on US Citizens

12-03-2019

Under a new regulation proposed by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), American citizens may be photographed by the government when they leave and return to the US.

Reuters reports the rule would be part of a broader system to track travelers as they come into and leave the country.

The regulation is scheduled to begin in July, but privacy advocates have already objected to the proposed plan.

Although Homeland Security has already been using facial recognition, citizens have been exempt, at least up until now. 

Jay Stanley, a senior policy analyst with the American Civil Liberties Union, criticized the plan saying, "Travelers, including US citizens, should not have to submit to invasive biometric scans simply as a condition of exercising their constitutional right to travel."
 
But the Trump Administration argues that face scanning will assist with preventing fraudulent use of US travel documents. The initiative could identify criminals and suspected terrorists.

US Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) have previously organized pilot programs that obtain photos and fingerprints from foreign travelers.

CBN News previously reported that when it comes to identifying criminals, some say the benefits of facial recognition programs and technology outweigh the negatives.

"To be clear CBP is only comparing the picture taken against photos previously provided by travelers to the US government for the purpose of international travel," said John Wagner with US Customs and Border Protection. "This is not a surveillance program."

During a hearing on Capitol Hill this summer, more than 30 organizations spoke out against facial recognition technology - claiming that it violates privacy, undermines immigrants and lacks security measures.

"The use of face recognition technology by DHS poses serious risks to privacy and civil liberties, threatens immigrants, broadly impacts American citizens, and has been implemented without proper safeguards in place or explicit Congressional approval," the organizations wrote in a letter to the top members of the House Homeland Security Committee. 

"Congress should not permit the continued use of face recognition in the United States, absent safeguards to prevent such abuses," the groups, including the ACLU and the National Immigration Law Center, added. 

DHS defended the government's use of facial recognition technology, saying that some concerns are exaggerated.

Rep. Mike Rogers (R-AL), a member on the House Homeland Security Committee, said, "Effective facial recognition technologies can improve law enforcement."

US Customs and Border Patrol said the plan strives to crack down on people with out of date visas and locate travelers whose identities do not match their documentation.

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