The US Government Is Testing Myriad Invasive Biometric Surveillance Methods

The Government Is Testing Myriad Invasive Biometric Surveillance Methods

Government agencies are currently in the process of secretly testing new surveillance and monitoring at points of entry into the United States, according to leaked documents obtained by Motherboard. You're going to want to hear about this.

The leaks detail three programs that use different parts of your body to identify you. One of the "biometric recognition" programs is currently underway at Washington Dulles International Airport, while the other two are planned experiments.

Facial recognition in Washington DC

According to Motherboard, US Customs launched a secret facial recognition program at Dulles Airport outside Washington on March 11th. For the next two to three months, officers will randomly select travellers and take their photo as part of the "1:1 Facial Recognition Air Entry Pilot." The snapped photo will be run through a facial recognition algorithm and compared to the photo stored on the chip in their passport. The officer will be given a "match confidence score," which they can use to determine whether a person needs additional inspection to confirm their identity.

The whole program, including a subsequent evaluation period, will run a total of 19 months.

Fingerprint scans in Atlanta

Meanwhile, a forthcoming "Biometric Exit (BE) Mobile Experiment" at Atlanta-Hartsfield International Airport will use handheld devices to record both the entrance and exit of people from the United States. According to Motherboard's reporting, this is most likely a fingerprint scanner. The goal of the program is to "confirm with certainty that a foreigner traveller has departed the United States."

Iris scans and facial recognition at the US-Mexico border

But wait, there's more. Customs and Border Patrol will be installing iris scanners and facial recognition cameras at entry kiosks in several locations at the US-Mexico border. It's called the "Pedestrian Biometric Experiment," and according to leaked documents, the biometric scanning will be limited to the entry and exit of the Otay-Mesa border point at the United States-Mexico border to start. That will be coupled with increased biographical info — i.e. your passport info — to track entrances and exits across the border.

It appears the purpose of this study is to test the systems we have for enhanced data collection at the border. What kind of threats do they want to target? It's pretty vague.

What do we make of it?

OK, so these are just tests, but the bigger picture is that increased data collection and surveillance is increasingly the norm across government agencies. In the coming years we'll certainly see technologies of this sort implemented everywhere — not just at borders, but on the street and at government buildings. Pervasive surveillance and data capture will be the norm.

If you find that upsetting, you should! But it's not clear what can be done to stop it. [Motherboard 1 and Motherboard 2]

Picture: Shutterstock/Pyndurin Vasily



    Don't they already do this at Sydney Airport. I'm sure i've scanned my e-passport and look at a camera and then allowed through.

      It's a most international airports in Australia, I think. Definitely in Brisbane for at least 3 years.

    They already do fingerprint scanning for people entering the country. It's hardly invasive to be checking it against the one you gave when you entered.

    In any democracy, the government should be "scared" of the people. Any place where the people are "scared" of the government cannot be democracies.

      They are scared of the people. Thats why we are increasingly less equal.

    I dont mind law enforcement having this technology, I just like the idea of them having security and clearly defined methodology and legal practices (like warrants) in place. However on a personal note I dont trust Biometric Security (like the one suggested in Windows 10) in private, public or corporate use.

    Why ? 1) Cause of this, if its your fingerprint, you leave it on everything you touch and the government already has it (if you havent been fingerprinted as an adult)

    2) Password security 101. If your password is "Your Retina" and you use it for everything, than everyone has a copy of your retina and if one of them got hacked, you cant exactly change your Retina.

    Watch the Minority Report, the scary thing is not that every advertiser and store has your retina on file, or that the police have it on file... its the fact that the GAP clothing store has a copy of the key to the most secure police station in Washington DC in their national-wide sales computer (which is probably cloud based too). The GAP could be using the precogs to predict future hipster fashion.

    You have no security in that world, your only hope of help is if the person who is about to steal your eyeballs accidently kills you... that way pre-cog crime unit would be there to stop it before it happens.

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