Federal officials want to expand facial recognition to all travelers as they enter or leave the country, including previously exempt American citizens.
A filing from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) revealed a proposal to require all travelers, not just foreign nationals or visitors, to be photographed for facial recognition scans before they are allowed to enter or leave the U.S.
The DHS uses the biometric facial recognition system to prevent visitors or travelers from fraudulently using U.S. travel documents, and to identify criminals or suspected terrorists.
There has been pushback to the proposed regulation. Sen. Edward Markey (D-Mass.) said on Tuesday that he will introduce legislation to block the plan and prohibit American citizens from being forced to provide facial-recognition information.
Senator Markey, along with Senator Mike Lee (R-Utah), has been leading the effort calling on DHS to provide Congress with information on the agency’s use of biometric identification technology, in the wake of a breach of traveler and vehicle images at U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), where up to 100,000 individuals were affected by the theft of images of license plates and travelers’ faces that were stolen from a CBP subcontractor.
“The Department of Homeland Security should immediately withdraw plans to force Americans to undergo facial recognition and hand over their biometric information,” said Senator Markey. “This proposal would amount to disturbing government coercion, and as the recent data breach at Customs and Border Protection shows, Homeland Security cannot be trusted to keep our information safe and secure. I will soon introduce legislation to ensure that innocent American citizens are never forced to hand over their facial recognition information.”
In a notice posted online Tuesday, DHS wrote that it “is proposing to amend the regulations to provide that all travelers, including U.S. citizens, may be required to be photographed upon entry and/or departure.”
The DHS has a 2021 deadline to roll out facial recognition scanners to the 20 largest airports in the U.S.