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Facial Recognition Services Coming to U.S. Airports Starting Next Month

Customs and Border Protection is about to start using facial recognition services at all airports of entry into the country.

Following a successful pilot program at Washington Dulles International Airport, U.S. Customs and Border Protection is planning to roll out facial recognition services to airports across the country, starting next month at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York City.

The program is called the 1-to-1 Facial Comparison Project and will be used to confirm the identity of those travelers with electronic passports — ones with a computer chip holding a digital picture of the owner. Two pictures — the one on the passport and one taken at a checkpoint in the airport — will be compared and rated on a 0-to-100 scale indicating the match percentage.

“CBP continues to provide innovative technologies to enhance homeland security while facilitating international travel,” CBP Commissioner R. Gil Kerlikowske said in a statement reported by Fedscoop. “This biometric capability will aid our officers in identifying legitimate travelers while protecting them from fraud and identity theft with little to no delay to the entry process.

Although the program has been well received by airport officials, civil liberty activists are not so happy about the new initiative.

“One threat is the fact that facial recognition, in combination with wider use of video surveillance, would be likely to grow increasingly invasive over time,” the ACLU said in a Q&A. “Once installed, this kind of a surveillance system rarely remains confined to its original purpose. New ways of using it suggest themselves, the authorities or operators find them to be an irresistible expansion of their power, and citizens’ privacy suffers another blow. Ultimately, the threat is that widespread surveillance will change the character, feel, and quality of American life.

[Photo: PR]

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