Science

DHS wants to ramp up use of facial recognition at airports from just 15 to almost all in 4 years


Homeland Security wants to ramp up use of facial recognition at airports from just 15 locations nationwide to scan 97 percent of passengers by 2023

  • Facial recognition software could soon be standard in airports across the U.S.
  • The tool would be used to track people coming in and out of the country
  • Photos of passengers would be run against a database of visas and passports 
  • DHS’ interest in facial recognition comes amidst rising human rights concerns

Despite concerns over facial recognition’s impact on civil liberties, public agencies have continued to apply the tool liberally across the U.S. with one of the biggest deployments coming to an airport near you.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) said that it plans to expand its application of facial recognition to 97 percent of all passengers departing the U.S. by 2023, according to the Verge

By comparison, facial recognition technology is deployed in just 15 airports, according to figures recorded at the end of 2018.  

In what is being referred to as ‘biometric exit,’ the agency plans to use facial recognition to more thoroughly track passengers entering and leaving the country. 

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) said that it plans to expand its application of facial recognition to 97 percent of all passengers departing the U.S. by 2023

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) said that it plans to expand its application of facial recognition to 97 percent of all passengers departing the U.S. by 2023 

The system functions by taking a picture of passengers before they depart and then cross-referencing the image with a database containing photos of passports and visas.  

According to the DHS, the technology is not only scalable, but also extremely accurate.

In its current iteration, a summary states that the technology has scanned more than 2 million passengers with a near-perfect match rate of 98 percent.

In its limited deployment, the DHS says that it has helped to identify 7,000 passenger overstays since being introduced in 2017 as well as six passengers attempting to use identification not belonging to them.

While public institutions around the U.S. have been eager to incorporate facial recognition for collecting data, both advocacy groups, and more recently big tech companies, have pumped the brakes. 

Among the most unlikely voices of caution against the widespread deployment of facial recognition has been Microsoft — one of the biggest and most sophisticated purveyors of facial recognition software. 

This month the company announced that it denied lending its software to an unnamed California law enforcement agency who planned to use the tool to scan the faces of people the agency pulled over, so that it could be checked against a database. 

The reason behind the decision, according to Microsoft President, Brad Smith, is that the company felt the software — artificial intelligence systems that use machine learning to improve its capabilities — would disproportionately affect people of color and women. 

Facial recognition software has become increasingly enticing to law enforcement and other public agencies, but some big tech companies have pumped the brakes.

Facial recognition software has become increasingly enticing to law enforcement and other public agencies, but some big tech companies have pumped the brakes.

Microsoft’s tool is trained on mostly white male subjects, making it less efficient at identifying women and people of color and therefore increasing the risks involved with using the technology. 

Elsewhere in California, lawmakers have also debated banning the use of facial recognition software by public agencies. 

San Francisco, which started mulling the moratorium this month, would become he first city in the U.S. to pass legislation on the tool if the policy is adopted. 

Concerns over the deployment of the software have centered mostly on potential infringements of civil liberties. 

One of the most vocal critics, the ACLU, has argued that scanning someone’s face skirts laws involving probable cause and could be used for mass government surveillance. 

HOW DOES FACIAL RECOGNITION TECHNOLOGY WORK?

Facial recognition software works by matching real time images to a previous photograph of a person. 

Each face has approximately 80 unique nodal points across the eyes, nose, cheeky and mouth which distinguish one person from another. 

A digital video camera measures the distance between various points on the human face, such as the width of the nose, depth of the eye sockets, distance between the eyes and shape of the jawline.

A different smart surveillance system (pictured)  can scan 2 billion faces within seconds has been revealed in China. The system connects to millions of CCTV cameras and uses artificial intelligence to pick out targets. The military is working on applying a similar version of this with AI to track people across the country 

A different smart surveillance system (pictured) can scan 2 billion faces within seconds has been revealed in China. The system connects to millions of CCTV cameras and uses artificial intelligence to pick out targets. The military is working on applying a similar version of this with AI to track people across the country 

This produces a unique numerical code that can then be linked with a matching code gleaned from a previous photograph.

A facial recognition system used by officials in China connects to millions of CCTV cameras and uses artificial intelligence to pick out targets.

Experts believe that facial recognition technology will soon overtake fingerprint technology as the most effective way to identify people. 



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