Facial recognition screening will be used along the U.S.-Mexico border this summer in efforts against illegal immigration based on "secretive" tests in Arizona and Texas that collected data from those crossing the border legally.
The Guardian reported that according to government records, in those initial tests the pilot facial recognition program collected a "massive amount of data" from images that were captured while "people were leaving work, picking up children from school, and carrying out daily duties."
The Austin American-Statesman reported in February that U.S. Customs and Border Protection would use the pilot program to digitally scan the faces of drivers and passengers while they are in moving vehicles at the Anzalduas Port of Entry outside of McAllen, Texas.
U.S. Customs said it would use the results of the South Texas effort to set the stage for a wider rollout throughout the southern and northern borders, where the technology could be used to identify fugitives or wanted terror suspects, the American-Statesman said.
The Verge reported that the Vehicle Face System will have the ability to capture a facial recognition-ready image for every passenger in every car in both the inbound and outbound lanes through the vehicle's windshield.
The images would then be compared against visa and passport photos already on file with border agents.
Facial recognition is already being used at a dozen international airports to further confirm passenger identities.
"Traveler acceptance is really high and we can thank the Apples and the Googles for that," said Colleen Manaher, U.S. Customs and Border Protection's executive director of planning, program analysis, and evaluation, the American-Statesman said. "It's a game changer."
Arun Vemury, director of the Department of Homeland Security's Science and Technology Directorate's Apex Air Entry/Exit Re-engineering and Port of Entry People Screening programs, said on the U.S. Customs website that the technology has made great strides recently.
"Because of the improvements in facial recognition technology, we can verify people's identities with facial recognition much more effectively today than we could even just two years ago," Vemury said.
The program, though, has brought cries from civil liberties advocates who said there were dozens of privacy and constitutional concerns with a surveillance system so broad, The Guardian said.
"This is an example of the growing trend of authoritarian use of technology to track and stalk immigrant communities," Malkia Cyril, the executive director of the Center for Media Justice, told The Guardian. "It's absolutely a violation of our democratic rights, and we are definitely going to fight back."
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