In­ter­na­tional flights may re­quire face scans

It’s un­clear how long the gov­ern­ment would keep the im­ages.

The Denver Post - - NEWS - By Frank Bajak and David Koenig

HOUS­TON» If the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion gets its way, U.S. cit­i­zens board­ing in­ter­na­tional flights will have to sub­mit to a face scan, a plan pri­vacy ad­vo­cates call a step to­ward a sur­veil­lance state.

The Depart­ment of Home­land Se­cu­rity says it’s the only way to suc­cess­fully ex­pand a pro­gram that tracks non­im­mi­grant for­eign­ers. They have been re­quired by law since 2004 to sub­mit to bio­met­ric iden­tity scans — but to date have only had their fin­ger­prints and pho­tos col­lected prior to en­try.

Now, DHS says it’s fi­nally ready to im­ple­ment face scans on de­par­ture — aimed mainly at bet­ter track­ing visa over­stays but also at tight­en­ing se­cu­rity.

It says it won’t keep the face scans of U.S. cit­i­zens, but pri­vacy ad­vo­cates are skep­ti­cal and say Home­land Se­cu­rity is over­step­ping its au­thor­ity.

“Congress au­tho­rized scans of for­eign na­tion­als. DHS heard that and de­cided to scan ev­ery­one. That’s not how a democ­racy is sup­posed to work,” said Al­varo Be­doya, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the Cen­ter on Pri­vacy and Tech­nol­ogy at Ge­orge­town Univer­sity.

Tri­als be­gun un­der the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion are un­der­way at six U.S. air­ports — Bos­ton, Chicago, Hous­ton, At­lanta, Kennedy Air­port in New York City and Dulles in the Washington area. DHS aims to have high-vol­ume U.S. in­ter­na­tional air­ports en­gaged be­gin­ning next year.

Dur­ing the tri­als, pas­sen­gers will be able to opt out. But a DHS as­sess­ment of the pri­vacy im­pact in­di­cates that won’t al­ways be the case.

“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,” says the June 12 doc­u­ment on the web­site of Cus­toms and Bor­der Pro­tec­tion, which runs the DHS pro­gram.

John Wag­ner, the Cus­toms deputy ex­ec­u­tive as­sis­tant com­mis­sioner in charge of the pro­gram, con­firmed in an in­ter­view that U.S. cit­i­zens de­part­ing on in­ter­na­tional flights will sub­mit to face scans.

Wag­ner says the agency has no plans to re­tain the bio­met­ric data of U.S. cit­i­zens and will delete all scans of them within 14 days. How­ever, he doesn’t rule out CBP keep­ing them in the fu­ture af­ter go­ing “through the ap­pro­pri­ate pri­vacy re­views and ap­provals.”

A CBP spokes­woman, Jen­nifer Gabris, said the agency has not ex­am­ined whether that would re­quire a law change

Pri­vacy ad­vo­cates say mak­ing the scans manda­tory for U.S. cit­i­zens pushes the na­tion to­ward a Big Brother fu­ture of per­va­sive sur­veil­lance where lo­cal and state po­lice and fed­eral agen­cies, and even for­eign gov­ern­ments, could lever­age cit­i­zens col­lected “dig­i­tal faceprints” to track them wher­ever they go.

Jay Stan­ley, an Amer­i­can Civil Lib­er­ties Union se­nior pol­icy an­a­lyst, says U.S. law en­force­ment and se­cu­rity agen­cies al­ready ex­ert “suf­fi­cient grav­i­ta­tional pulls in want­ing to record and track what masses of in­di­vid­u­als are do­ing,” he says.

Sen. Ed­ward Markey, DMass., said U.S. cit­i­zens should be able to opt out.

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