By Libby Rozbruch
Libby Rozbruch is a junior at the University of Pennsylvania studying Psychology.
Earlier last month, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) teamed up with Transportation Security Administration (TSA) to deploy facial recognition and biometric technology at one checkpoint at John F. Kennedy International Airport for 30 days.  Many U.S. travelers will undoubtedly value this new technology, since using biometrics throughout airport checkpoints rather than IDs and boarding passes makes the travel process shorter and more efficient.  However, travelers should consider the implications of this technology. TSA’s latest proposal reveals that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) plans to collect travelers’ facial and iris scans on a nationwide scale, which poses a serious threat to the privacy of innocent Americans. 
The DHS Privacy Impact Assessment bluntly states that “the only way for an individual to ensure he or she is not subject to collection of biometric information when traveling internationally is to refrain from traveling.”  This is because CBP wants to create a “biometric” pathway to track all travelers – via facial recognition – from check-in, through security, to gates, and onto flights.  hough travelers’ facial and iris scans are typically deleted within 14 days, the agency has the right under the DHS policy to keep them longer if deemed necessary and to share the information with state, local, and federal authorities.  This is perhaps the most concerning part of the plan, as it opens a gateway for DHS data in the hands of third parties.
With approval from the Senate Commerce Committee, CBP and TSA are permitted to share the biometrics with the FBI as well as other private partners. For example, the vendor for the TSA PreCheck program, a company called Idemia, offers PreCheck-approved travelers expedited entry at concerts and stadiums across the country and plans to equip these venues with biometric-based technology. This will allow Idemia to track fans as they move throughout the venue, not just for security purposes but also “to assist in fan experience.” 
Another major call for concern is the fact that CBP is partnering with commercial airlines and airport authorities to access travelers’ facial images captured by third parties for the Traveler Verification Service. The will aid “CBP’s use of the Traveler Verification Service (TVS) cloud-based matching service to compare international travelers’ photos captured by CBP against previously-captured photos.”  Perhaps more alarming is the DHS’ interest in facial recognition drones, which will identify humans at range via facial recognition or other biometrics. According to a solicitation notice, “the sensor technology would have facial recognition capabilities that allow it cross-reference any persons identifies with relevant law enforcement databases…the data gathered via the sensors would provide information to USBP agents including the presence and extent of potential threats and support the ability of the agent to determine an appropriate response.” 
Research from Georgetown Law’s Center on Privacy and Technology reveals that one in two American adults is already in a law enforcement face recognition network, as “at least 26 states (and potentially as many as 30) allow law enforcement to run or request searches against their databases of driver’s license and ID photos.”  CBP and other law enforcement agencies should not be allowed access to facial images unrelated to wanted persons or those with a history of violent crime. This poses a serious risk to individual privacy, civil liberties, and civil rights.
More specifically, the use of this technology-that allows the federal government to track our movements-seems to undoubtedly infringe upon our constitutional right to travel and right to anonymous association with others.  It is important for American travelers to consider the implications of this technology beyond its immediate benefits. The various proposals create the risk that travelers’ facial images and iris scans will be stored in FBI and DHS databases to be used again for “immigration, law enforcement, and intelligence checks, including checks against latent prints associated with unsolved crimes.”  It is also important to note that face recognition is less accurate than fingerprinting, especially when used in real-time or on large databases. 
Though the benefits of face recognition are real, they should not be accepted without first looking at the various risks created by the use of the technology. There seems to be no way for the government to fully ensure the protection of our sensitive and private information. We need to consider not only the short-term benefits of facial recognition but also the potential long-term effects, which may pose serious threats to our fundamental right to privacy.
 “CBP Deploys Facial Recongition Biometric Technology at 1 TSA Checkpoint at JFK Airport.” U.S. Customs and Border Protection, October 11, 2017. Accessed November 18 2017. https://www.cbp.gov/newsroom/national-media-release/cbp-deploys-facial-recognition-biometric-technology-1-tsa-checkpoint
 Lynch, Jennifer. “TSA Plans to Use Face Recognition to Track Americans Through Airports.” Electronic Frontier Foundation, November 9, 2017. Accessed November 18, 2017. https://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2017/11/tsa-plans-use-face-recognition-track-americans-through-airports
 U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Privacy Impact Assessment Update for the Traveler Verification Service (TVS): Partner Process DHS/CBP /PIA - 030( c ). June 12, 2017. Accessed November 18, 2017. https://www.dhs.gov/sites/default/files/publications/privacy-pia-cbp030-tvs-june2017.pdf
 Feeney, Matthew. “Senate Bill Paves Way For Airport Facial Scans.” Forbes, October 6, 2017. Accessed November 18, 2017. https://www.forbes.com/sites/matthewfeeney2/2017/10/06/senate-bill-paves-way-for-airport-facial-scans/#70695f5b4fe0
 Matthew Feeney. “Border Patrol Seeking Facial Recognition Drones.” Cato Institute, April 10, 2017. Accessed November 19, 2017.
 “Unregulated Police Face Recognition in America.” Perpetual Lineup, October 18, 2016. Accessed November 18, 2017. https://www.perpetuallineup.org
Photo Credit: Flickr User/Nick Kozak www.flickr.com/photos/nickkozak/
The opinions and views expressed through this publication are the opinions of the designated authors and do not reflect the opinions or views of the Penn Undergraduate Law Journal, our staff, or our clients.