Privacy advocates decry biometric exit trials
13 July 2017 12:44 GMT

A prominent privacy group in the US has said implementing face recognition systems at airports could be un-democratic.

Staff from Center on Privacy and Technology at Georgetown University complained in an AP story about Department of Homeland Security efforts to expand a program that tracks nonimmigrant foreigners.

"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 currently underway at six U.S. airports and DHS aims to have high-volume U.S. international airports engaged beginning next year.

The report notes that a DHS assessment of the privacy impact indicates passengers wont always be aware they can opt out.

"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.

For his part, John Wagner, the Customs deputy executive assistant commissioner in charge of the program, confirmed in an interview to AP 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."