Saturday, 23 January 2021

"Advanced surveillance tech on the border poses dangers to both migrants and citizens."


[Larger image of no-fly flowchart; PDF with key to acronyms and color-coding; FAQ.]

Why Biden’s ‘Virtual’ Border Could Be Worse Than Trump’s Wall: Advanced surveillance tech on the border poses dangers to both migrants and citizens. (by Felipe de la Hoz, The Nation, 22 January 2021):

…Unlike a border wall, an advanced virtual “border” doesn’t just exist along the demarcation dividing countries. It extends hundreds of miles inland along the “Constitution-free zone” of enhanced Border Patrol authority. It’s in private property and along domestic roadways. It’s at airports, where the government is ready to roll out a facial recognition system with no age limit that includes travelers on domestic flights that never cross a border.

To an extent, these technologies’ ability to fade into the background can leave them relatively invisible to domestic audiences — until suddenly they’re not. Take the no-fly list, which is more like an unreviewable no-fly algorithm. Every time someone tries to check in for a flight, their information is sent to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), which makes real-time decisions about whether they’re allowed to board the plane or not. If rejected, you are given no reasoning, shown no evidence, given no process by which this decision was reached, and have few avenues for redress. Even the specific criteria used for such determinations is secret. It’s a tool that many Americans might agree with on principle, but it has expanded into a tool of wanton state power without any public discussion. “People are shocked to the point of near disbelief when you tell them this is happening. It doesn’t occur to them that there’s an invisible checkpoint at the airport,” said Edward Hasbrouck, a consultant with the Identity Project and writer at the affiliated Papers, Please! blog.

Hasbrouck believes the principles applied at airports will be extended to the physical border. He said DHS officials “complain constantly and explicitly about the fact that, unlike at the airport, where we know who’s getting on the plane before they get on the plane, at the land border anybody can just show up. They regard this as a horrible defect that they’re working assiduously to rectify.” The language in the immigration bill fact sheet points in the direction of technological processing of migrants in a way that will limit their ability to just show up….

Trump adviser Stephen Miller’s strategy has been to push the border south under the often-correct assumption that for the American public out of sight means out of mind. The squalid refugee camps created by the Migrant Protection Protocols program are just across the border, and have gotten a fraction of the attention of other border abuses. For an administration hoping to sidestep domestic controversy over the treatment of desperate migrants while still set on controlling their flow and entry, the use of technology to develop what Hasbrouck called a “kind of pre-approval that externalizes and moves the borders further and further away” might seem like the best option….

Whatever its direction, there will likely be an expansion of immigration and border technology, and it will involve a slew of private actors. In 2011, Obama infamously canceled a years-long “high-tech border fence” project that had accomplished little except provide $1 billion in taxpayer funds to Boeing. Yet technological capabilities have improved dramatically since then, and the vision of a pervasive and interconnected travel surveillance apparatus is now more realizable. Entire companies have formed to cater to these contracts, including Anduril, headed by crypto-fascist troll Palmer Luckey, who has close ties to mass surveillance firm Palantir (not coincidentally, both are companies named after objects from Lord of the Rings, by people who probably cheered the villains’ quest for absolute power)….

Other defense and security contractors are creating the infrastructure to ingest and manage millions of immigration applicants’ and US sponsors’ sensitive biometric data… in what Hasbrouck termed the “unholy alliance” of public and private surveillance interests and efforts….

(For the record, I didn’t say that any of this would be “worse”, just different, and that wasn’t a question asked in the inteview. Unlike bloggers, reporters for major news media don’t generally write the headlines under which their stories are published.)

Full story from Felipe de la Hoz in The Nation; more from Felipe de la Hoz in The Baffler here and here; my FAQ about no-fly decision-making from the Identity Project blog.

Link | Posted by Edward on Saturday, 23 January 2021, 14:05 ( 2:05 PM)
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