Thursday, 5 December 2019

Will the DHS require mug shots of U.S. citizen travellers?

Over the Thanksgiving weekend, while I was preparing my testimony for a precedent-setting meeting of the Seattle Port Commission on December 10th to consider principles and policies for use of automated facial recognition for identification, surveillance, and control of airline passengers at the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, I uncovered a previously-unnoticed offical notice from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) that it planned to issue new regulations to require mug shots of all international travellers, including U.S. citizens.

My report about this Monday on the Identity Project blog triggered a flurry of publicity in other news outlets and an immediate firestorm of outrage from the public and members of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives.

Today the DHS sent out a press release claiming to have cancelled its plans, at least for now. But instead of admitting to having backed down in the face of public and Congressional pressure, they instead chose to try to shoot the messenger by falsely characterizing my accurate report about their own official public notice as containing “incorrect… claims”.

As I said in an article by David Koenig for the Associated Press on the DHS about-face:

Edward Hasbrouck, a privacy advocate who pointed out the proposal, said the matter might not be settled.

“Was this a trial balloon to find out whether the DHS had finally reached the limits of our willingness to be treated like criminals whenever we fly?” he said. “And if so, has the DHS partially backed off, at least for now? Maybe.”

There’s more about the DHS press release, and my response to their unjustified criticism of my reporting, in the Identity Project blog.

I look forward to seeing some of you Tuesday in Seattle, where the Port Commission will have a chance to ask more questions about what the DHS and its airline “partners” are already doing, and what they are planning.

Link | Posted by Edward on Thursday, 5 December 2019, 16:52 ( 4:52 PM)

Washington Post editiorial, 7 December 2019:

“In fact, there hasn’t been much formal anything. CBP has issued what it calls privacy impact assessments on its program… But … if CBP wants to change its own protocols, Americans will have to take on faith that they and their representatives will be told first and given the chance to weigh in.

“Legislators are lagging as facial recognition technology creeps around the country. Congress has not authorized DHS to collect Americans’ biometric information as part of its mandate to create an entry-exit system, but it also hasn’t told the agency not to. Without action, there are few rules for DHS to follow — because, contrary to the usual procedure for a project with such significant civil liberties implications, the department did not write them before rolling out its system…. In the meantime, CBP has scanned the faces of tens of millions of travelers.

“The government, according to internal documents, envisions a future in which passengers’ trips from the curbside to the boarding gate are determined at every juncture by face-checks. Anonymity disappears in the service of “simplified and standardized wayfinding across airports.” Many Americans might appreciate the convenience, but it is Congress’s job to consider the cost.”

Posted by: Edward Hasbrouck, 7 December 2019, 11:15 (11:15 AM)

Port of Seattle to develop policies on use of biometrics to identify travelers (12 December 2019):

Posted by: Edward Hasbrouck, 12 December 2019, 22:26 (10:26 PM)
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