by Nicholas West, Activist Post:
It’s a trend that is quickly becoming accepted reality – biometric identification at U.S. airports. However, until now, it has been marketed either as an elective measure for preferred travelers who wish to expedite clearance or for inbound international travelers.
As I previously reported, U.S. Customs and Border Protection has a mandate that’s been 15 years in the making to integrate government databases for ID verification. Private companies have been enlisted to ensure that there is a “quick and easy roll out across U.S. airports,” according to Jim Peters, chief technology officer for SITA, one of the information technology companies working with airlines.
According to the Orlando Sentinel, British Airways has become the first in the nation to employ the new routine at Orlando International Airport, but all of the airport’s 25 international carriers are expected to adopt biometric processing in the near future:
The passengers had shown no boarding pass, passport or any other identification.
Instead, a U.S. Customs and Border Protection computer was comparing each traveler’s passport photo on file – or a visa photo of those not from the U.S. – with their newly captured portrait.
John Newsome, the airport’s chief information officer, said all of the airport’s 25 carriers with foreign flights and the two border checkpoints will be equipped for biometric screening through this summer.
The decision means spending $4 million on gates and high-definition cameras for departing and arriving international flights.
The technology is being touted as being “quick as a Google search for most passengers.”
As we know, however, privacy and data breaches have become as common as the days of the week, so I personally don’t feel reassured by the reference to Google when my biometric data is being harvested.
If you are a U.S. citizen, the plan is to dispose of the photos collected within 14 days and, according to CBP’s deputy director, “At some point in the future, that time frame is going to shrink, and photos of U.S. citizens probably won’t be kept at all,” Dan Tanciar stated.
If you are a foreign traveler, though, the data will “will be kept for 75 years.”
There also was mention of an opt-out for those who might not be comfortable with the process, but it was not specified if this applies only to U.S. citizens, or to international travelers as well. However, this suggestion seems to conflict with DHS statements about their plans for biometric ID at airports.
DHS issued an 18-page memo in June 2017 that can be read below which clearly documented their intention to implement mandatory facial recognition, even stating that “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.”