DHS reverses stand on facial screening: report

DHS considering photographing passengers at airports
The Department of Homeland Security has changed its mind about expanding facial recognition at airports to U.S. citizens. (Associated Press)

Last week’s report that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) was considering photographing all people going through airport security, including U.S. citizens, created a wave of negative publicity. According to an Associated Press report, DHS will not expand facial recognition to U.S. citizens after all.

One legislator who opposed the measure, Sen. Edward Markey (D-Mass) was quoted as saying that the administration’s retreat was “a victory for every single American traveler who flies on a plane.” He added, however, that he still plans to introduce legislation to ban biometric surveillance of Americans.

The report said Customs and Border Protection officials originally considered including U.S. citizens in the biometrics program because having one system for Americans and another for foreigners adds complexity and could compromise security or make lines longer. However, after public outcry and meeting with lawmakers and privacy experts, DHS decided to continue letting Americans opt out.

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Privacy experts have reportedly questioned the accuracy of facial recognition and warned that personal information could be vulnerable to hackers or used improperly by companies holding the data. In response to those criticisms, DHS made some changes, including shortening the time it will retain photographs from 14 days to 12 hours.


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