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Report Claims Homeland Security Face-Scanning Tech May Be Illegal
Miami New Times
by Jerry Iannelli
Few American airports shuttle more travelers out of the country than Miami International. But many travelers who've flown internationally from MIA since October have been stopped by agents from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and guided to a small kiosk with a camera inside that resembles an iPhone the size of a shoebox.
The tiny boxes take facial scans of thousands of travelers departing from nine airports — in Atlanta, Chicago, Las Vegas, New York City, Houston, D.C., and Miami. Homeland Security rolled out the so-called biometric exit technology at MIA in October, but a group of Georgetown University legal advocates released a report just before Christmas detailing the many terrifying and unanswered questions about the new data-collection program. They demanded the federal government stop needlessly collecting sensitive data on thousands, if not millions, of people exiting the country.
The Georgetown legal experts call the program a "solution in search of a problem" and say that "neither Congress nor DHS has ever justified the need for the program." Homeland Security claims the cameras could stop impostors from fleeing the country under fake names, but privacy advocates note "neither Congress nor DHS has ever justified the need for the program."
In fact, the lawyers claim Homeland Security installed the $1 billion national camera system (raised from surcharges on certain visa applications) without following proper federal rules, so the entire program might be illegal:
[Homeland Security's] biometric exit program also stands on shaky legal ground. Congress has repeatedly ordered the collection of biometrics from foreign nationals at the border, but has never clearly authorized the border collection of biometrics from American citizens using face recognition technology.10 Without explicit authorization, DHS should not be scanning the faces of Americans as they depart on international flights — but DHS is doing it anyway.11 DHS also is failing to comply with a federal law requiring it to conduct a rulemaking process to implement the airport face scanning program — a process that DHS has not even started.