In 2017, United States airports began rolling out a system that photographs passengers as they board their flight. By the end of 2018, the system became operational in 15 US airports. The US Department of Homeland Security now plans to use facial recognition technology on 97 percent of departing passengers within the next four years, according to The Verge.
The system works by photographing passengers as they pass through the boarding gate then cross-referencing them against a library populated with images taken from visa and passport applications and photos taken by border agents when foreigners enter the country.
The goal is to develop an efficient “Biometric System,” in which government officials can keep track of who is entering and leaving the country through image data. They also hope to be able to identify more people who have overstayed their visas.
The US Customers and Border Protection (CBP) estimates that over 600,000 people overstay their visas every year. Those convicted of this crime face a maximum penalty of a 10-year ban from entering the US.
“The system, tested on more than 15,000 flights, identified 7,000 travelers who overstayed visas, according to the agency. CBP calculates that 666,582 passengers who arrived by plane or boat overstayed visas in fiscal 2018,” writes Quartz. “For the past few years, overstayers have represented a bigger share of undocumented immigrants than those who enter the country illegally.”
This development in airport security comes as no surprise in Trump America’s quintessential desire to build unprecedentedly rigid immigration laws. In fact, the rollout of this technology in airports was supposed to begin rolling out in 2018 but was fast-tracked by the White House to do so in the summer of 2017.
Many argue that such technology infringes on civil liberties and is reminiscent of surveillance state practices. Once the database is built out for airports, it wouldn’t be hard to provide the information to other agencies and maybe even private entities.