The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) wants to update a current law requiring non-U.S. citizens to be subject to facial recognition scans while entering and leaving the country to include U.S. citizens, according to a report by TechCrunch.
U.S. citizens had previously been exempt from the facial recognition checks, but DHS now wants all travelers to be subject to the checks. Before, it only applied to foreign nationals and visitors.
Facial recognition technology has been used more and more as DHS attempts to catch people who overstay their visas. The department has a deadline of 2021 to provide the 20 largest airports in the U.S. with machines that provide the facial recognition scanning technology, even though there are complicated technological issues it needs to overcome.
Permanent residents and U.S. citizens have so far always been exempt from the checks.
“Time and again, the government told the public and members of Congress that U.S. citizens would not be required to submit to this intrusive surveillance technology as a condition of traveling,” said Jay Stanley, a senior policy analyst at the American Civil Liberties Union. “This new notice suggests that the government is reneging on what was already an insufficient promise.”
The move brings to light a whole slew of potential privacy violations, he said.
“Travelers, including U.S. citizens, should not have to submit to invasive biometric scans simply as a condition of exercising their constitutional right to travel. The government’s insistence on hurtling forward with a large-scale deployment of this powerful surveillance technology raises profound privacy concerns,” he said.
Stanley said the government couldn’t be trusted with the data, and pointed to a data breach of almost 100,000 license plate and personal photos in June by the government. He said insufficient safeguards to the data was to blame. He called for urgent lawmaker intervention on the issue.