Customs and Border Protection using facial biometrics for travel

CBP is using facial biometrics to confirm traveler identities and protect the nation from potential threats. Officials say a team at Washington Dulles International Airport recently intercepted an imposter posing as a French citizen.



CBP is using facial biometrics to confirm traveler identities and protect the nation from potential threats. Officials say a team at Washington Dulles International Airport recently intercepted an imposter posing as a French citizen.







Citing privacy fears, San Francisco and Oakland are on the verge of becoming the first cities in the United States to ban facial recognition technology from government use, the East Bay Times reports.

The bans would block city agencies, including police, from obtaining facial recognition gear or using any information gleaned by such systems, according to the publication.

Neither city currently uses facial recognition technology, and Oakland already requires City Council approval to purchase such equipment, Wired reported.

“This is our opportunity to prevent the genie from getting out of the bottle,” said Brian Hofer, chairman of the Oakland Privacy Advisory Commission, KTVU reported. The panel backs the ban.

“We know the technology is dangerously inaccurate today, and even if it becomes perfectly accurate, it is too radical of an expansion of government power over our lives,” Hofer said, according to the station.

In San Francisco, Supervisor Aaron Peskin proposed a similar ban in June, the East Bay Times reported. The Stop Secret Surveillance Ordinance also requires special approval by the city for purchase or use of related technology, similar to the existing provisions in Oakland.

“I have yet to be persuaded that there is any beneficial use of this technology that outweighs the potential for government actors to use it for coercive and oppressive ends,” Peskin said, Wired reported.

A San Francisco committee votes Monday on the ordinance, which could go to the full Board of Supervisors on May 14, the East Bay Times reported. The Oakland ban next goes to that city’s Public Safety Committee later in May.

If city leaders adopt the proposals, San Francisco and Oakland would be the first U.S. cities with comprehensive bans on the use of facial recognition technology, Wired reported.

“This is the first piece of legislation that I’ve seen that really takes facial recognition technology as seriously as it is warranted and treats it as uniquely dangerous,” said Woodrow Hartzog, a Northeastern University professor of law and computer science, according to the publication.

Neither proposal addresses private use of facial recognition technology, but Hartzog says the government bans help “prevent the technology from getting embedded in everything,” Wired reported.

Facial recognition software scans photos or videos for comparison with a database of photos, such as driver’s license photos or police mug shots, to identify people, Norton.com reports. But the technology raises both privacy and accuracy concerns.

A test by the ACLU, which helped draft the Oakland and San Francisco policies, in 2018 found an Amazon facial recognition tool misidentified 28 members of Congress as crime suspects.

“Anytime they run your face through the software I’m sure it’s going to log your address, the time and everything else so it’s kind of just keeping tabs on everybody,” said Richard Hogan of Oakland, who backs the ban, KPIX reported.

“I think it’s necessary, though, in order to keep the crime rate down and to keep our neighborhood, our environments protected,” said Christina Perkins, also of Oakland, who opposes the ban, according to the station. “It definitely could be a good tool.”

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Don Sweeney has been a newspaper reporter and editor in California for more than 25 years. He has been a real-time reporter based at The Sacramento Bee since 2016.






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