ACLU Fears Mission Creep, Racial Prejudice in Biometric Airport Screening

The American Civil Liberties Union is laying out its objections to the US government’s increasing use of facial recognition at airports in a new blog post by policy analyst Jay Stanley. ACLU Fears Mission Creep, Racial Prejudice in Biometric Airport ScreeningTitled “What’s Wrong With Airport Face Recognition”, the post comes in the wake of the Department of Homeland Security’s discussion last week with privacy advocates over the airport screening component of its Biometric Entry/Exit program, and the publication of a privacy impact statement.

Much of the ACLU’s criticism revolves around the program’s use of facial recognition, which Stanley characterizes as “the most dangerous biometric” since it can be applied most easily without the consent of subjects. Stanley notes that customs officials say they will discard such biometrics within 14 days for citizens “for now”, but that mission creep is inevitable; but Congress has only authorized the use of biometric border tracking on foreign nationals.

Another major focus of the criticisms concerns reliability. Stanley notes that CBP Deputy Executive Assistant Commissioner John Wagner, who led last week’s DHS discussion, said that the technology has a four percent false negative rate, which would equate to one in 25 people needlessly being sent to CBP officers for extra scrutiny at airport processing. Meanwhile, studies have indicated that facial recognition technology performs more poorly on African Americans, resulting in a screening system that is fundamentally prejudiced.

The ACLU wants the CBP to scrap the idea entirely, an outcome that appears unlikely given the growing momentum behind its trial programs, and the growing cooperation of private air travel interests. But the DHS has indicated that last week’s consultations were the first in a series, which could lead to more productive negotiations that could address the serious concerns of the ACLU and others going forward.

Source: ACLU Free Future

August 8, 2017 – by Alex Perala