Border Patrol Has Used Facial Recognition to Scan More Than 16 Million Fliers — and Caught Just 7 Imposters
A new report lays out CBP’s shoddy implementation of facial recognition technology
The agency that runs the United States’ airport and border facial recognition program has failed to properly tell the public about how it works, a new report has found. In whole, the report reads like a major red flag: The U.S. government is charging ahead with the adoption of this questionable technology, and it’s not informing the public or keeping proper tabs on accuracy.
By law, the Customs and Border Patrol is supposed to inform the public when facial recognition is being used by putting up clear, legible signs telling people that their faces are being scanned and how they can opt out. The department is also supposed to put accurate, up-to-date information online about its facial recognition, and provide information through its call center.
Signs disclosing the use of facial recognition were hidden behind bigger signs at airports, and some contained outdated information.
But a new report from the federal Government Accountability Office (GAO) found CBP lacking in all these regards. Signs disclosing the use of facial recognition were hidden behind bigger signs at airports, and some contained outdated information. Some signs didn’t tell people how to opt out, or what would happen if they asked to opt out.
Not having these signs means that people were less likely to opt out or question whether they needed to submit to a facial scan. Privacy organizations told GAO that CBP discourages opting out, with the justification that doing so “would lead to additional security scrutiny, increased wait times, and could be grounds to deny boarding.” GOA found that CBP officers weren’t present to address opt-out requests at airports, meaning that travelers who opted out would have to wait while additional staff was called in to address concerns.
Investigators also couldn’t always reach the CBP call center to ask about opt-out information. When they…