The Department of Homeland Security is testing a new system that uses facial recognition technology to find immigration violators, CBS News
The three-month pilot program has been launched at Washington Dulles International Airport, where a computer is used to check that a person matches the photo in the passport presented. The technology is able to rate how likely they are to be a real match and it alerts officials in the event that there's a discrepancy.
"We do see people trying to use the legitimate document, but it belonging to someone else, to conceal their identity," Customs and Border Protection Deputy Assistant Commissioner John Wagner told CBS News, "and we are vulnerable to that."
"Looking at things like iris or facial recognition helps us compare that person to the document and confirm their identity" to check against watch lists, Wagner said.
The technology is still in its testing phase, but privacy advocates are already concerned that it could become more widely adopted by law enforcement agencies to track law-abiding citizens, CBS News said.
"This is really just the beginning," said Harley Geiger, Senior Counsel at the Center for Democracy and Technology, according to CBS News.
"The real concern is not so much this particular pilot program, it is that this particular pilot program is a step towards a larger program," Geiger said. "Not just in ports of entry, but also in public places, mass transit systems throughout the domestic United States."
The customs agency said that roughly 250 people per day are being scanned as part of the pilot. One passenger returning from the Dominican Republican told CBS News that he didn't have objections to it.
"Makes travel a little more cumbersome, but if it's keeping us safe then it's worthwhile," said Jeffrey Fazio.
To date, the agency has taken almost 4,000 pictures of travelers. The photos are being stored in a secure database until the end of the pilot, at which point they will be deleted.
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