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Homeland Security Wants To Expand Facial Recognition To All Entering Or Leaving US

MIAMI (CBSMiami) – As millions of people are back home from Thanksgiving travel, the federal government is considering changing airport security in a major way.

Many of us use facial recognition technology daily. The latest iPhone uses it to unlock your phone and conduct transactions.

The government has used it for years for non-U.S. citizens arriving in the United States.

Now, Homeland Security wants to expand facial recognition technology to include anyone arriving or leaving the U.S. They argue it will make us all safer.

Facial recognition at the airport is not that new. Over the past few years, airlines have been testing it out as a way to speed up the boarding process.

"You can literally go from, you know, curb to plane without having to interact with a human being if you so desire," explained Delta Senior Vice President Gareth Joyce.

The camera simply snaps a photo of your face and compares it against a government database.  If it's you, you get approval to move through.

The federal government has been using similar technology as part of a test pilot program at the nation's busiest airports.

Used primarily for international arrivals, Customs and Border Protection has caught numerous people trying to sneak into the United States.

"We do see people trying to use the legitimate document but it belonging to someone else to conceal their identity… and we are vulnerable to that," said Customs and Border Protection Deputy Assistant Commissioner John Wagner.

For as effective as the technology is, there are some real concerns among privacy advocates.

"Facial recognition is biased against people of color and often inaccurate," said Matt Cagle, a technology and civil liberties attorney for the ACLU.

The American Civil Liberties Union put a similar facial recognition system to the test last year.

Using the faces of members of Congress, 28 were mistaken for criminals.

Sen. Ed Markey was one of those mistaken.

"Go slow.  Build in the protections.  It's better to be able to assure Americans that their privacy, the privacy of innocent Americans, is not being compromised," he said.

The even bigger concern is that facial recognition could become part of government surveillance, knowing when and where you go.

"The real concern is not so much this particular pilot program, it is that this this particular pilot program is a step towards a larger program," said Harley Geiger with the Center for Democracy and Technology.

This new proposed rule to require everyone use the facial recognition will be considered this summer by the Department of Homeland Security.

Sen. Markey said he plans to propose a bill to stop it from happening. He believes the government cannot be trusted to secure the system.

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