U.S. border checkpoints at airports of entry nationwide will begin using facial recognition technology on foreign visitors and U.S. citizens after a successful pilot just outside the nation’s capital, according to a new privacy disclosure from the Department of Homeland Security.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection, a DHS agency, piloted its “1-to-1 Facial Comparison Project” at Washington Dulles International Airport between March and May 2015, and now is bringing that technology to all U.S. airports of entry on a permanent basis, a DHS privacy impact assessment released Tuesday said.
The expansion will be incremental, starting with John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York City sometime this month. The technology will be used to confirm the identity of travelers with electronic passports, which include a computer chip containing, among other data, a digital photo of the holder.
However Nora and myself no longer fly; Nora does not care to be groped by imbeciles and I refuse to undergo searches sans probable cause or a warrant. Call us crazy. But the rest of you? Get used to it. As well as the fact the devices will make errors: everyone has a doppelganger. What if yours is simply on a watch list?
Also? Apparently, despite what DHS says? The devices…well, um…they work quite poorly.
A study by the government’s National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), for example, found false-negative rates for face-recognition verification of 43 percent using photos of subjects taken just 18 months earlier, for example. And those photos were taken in perfect conditions, significant because facial recognition software is terrible at handling changes in lighting or camera angle or images with busy backgrounds. The NIST study also found that a change of 45 degrees in the camera angle rendered the software useless. The technology works best under tightly controlled conditions, when the subject is starting directly into the camera under bright lights – although another study by the Department of Defense found high error rates even in those ideal conditions. Grainy, dated video surveillance photographs of the type likely to be on file for suspected terrorists would be of very little use.
Fly the friendly skies, indeed.