Arthur J. Villasanta – Fourth Estate Contributor
Orlando, FL, United States (4E) – When you set foot at the Orlando International Airport (OIA) in Florida, the 11th busiest airport in the USA, don’t forget to not to smile for the cameras.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) on June 21 announced that OIA will become the first U.S. airport to fully implement facial recognition for all arriving and departing passengers using facial-recognition technology made in Japan. The goal of this intrusive program, which has human rights implications, is to electronically screen passengers quickly and efficiently.
The Greater Orlando Aviation Authority (GOAA) Board first began using the technology, which is part of CBP’s $4 million “Protection Biometric Entry and Exit Program,” at OIA on May 20. Full implementation is expected soon.
So far, the technology is being used for passengers boarding British Airways flights to the United Kingdom. GOAA claims the tech has managed to reduce the duration of the boarding process.
“Customer satisfaction is always our top priority and the goal of the board is to make the journey through Orlando International Airport as enjoyable as possible,” said GOAA Chairman Frank Kruppenbacher. “This program will benefit our more than 6 million annual international passengers by delivering a simpler travel process.”
Faces are being examined by special scnners. The facial photos of those scanned are then compared to Department of Homeland Security (DHS) travel databases. CBP said each facial scan takes fewer than two seconds and claims the system has a 99 percent match rate.
What isn’t well known, and what the government isn’t widely discussing, is that U.S. citizens can opt out of the facial scan altogether. This fact was confirmed by Harrison Rudolph, an associate at the Center on Privacy and Technology at the Georgetown University Law Center, who said U.S. citizens at these airports can choose not to be scanned, The CBP, however, “doesn’t seem to be doing an adequate job letting Americans know they can opt out,” said Rudolph.
CBP confirms U.S. citizens can opt out of having their faces scanned. Instead, U.S. citizens will have to provide a photograph prior to entering or leaving the country.
Privacy advocates are concerned about the rules governing these facial scans, and what the government plans to do with the millions of facial data it collects. Some travelers worry this data can be hacked, similar to what criminals do to credit cards.
Two senators sent a letter last month to DHS urging that formal rules be implemented before the program is expanded. “It will also ensure a full vetting of this potentially sweeping program that could impact every American leaving the country by airport,” said the letter from Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA) and Mike Lee (R-UT).
Other U.S. airports where CBP has installed facial-recognition technology are Miami, Atlanta, New York JFK, San Diego, Houston Intercontinental and Hobby, Washington Dulles, Las Vegas and Chicago O’Hare.
The equipment is also at preclearance airports overseas, where travelers clear customs and immigration before departing their planes in Aruba, Abu Dhabi and Ireland’s Shannon and Dublin airports. CBP has partnerships with Delta Air Lines, Jet Blue Airways, British Airways, Lufthansa and Air New Zealand for the use of facial recognition technology.
“We are at a critical turning point in the implementation of a biometric entry-exit system, and we’ve found a path forward that transforms travel for all travelers,” said CBP Commissioner Kevin McAleenan.
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