Biometric screening for international flights was expected to take off across airports around the country, but The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) had other things in mind. Earlier last year the facial recognition systems were already being used at nearly 20 top airports around the country and DHS revealed that implementation of biometric screenings was to cover more than 97% of departing commercial air travelers within the next four years.

Expansion Not Happening

In December, the DHS announced it no longer has plans to expand facial recognition to U.S. citizens. The statement reverses a DHS proposal that would have directed all US citizens to have their faces scanned when traveling internationally. Custom and Borders Protection (CBP) issued a statement on the reversal of the rule. “CBP is committed to keeping the public informed about our use of facial comparison technology,” said John Wagner, Deputy Executive Assistant Commissioner of the CBP Office of Field Operations. “We are implementing a biometric entry-exit system that protects the privacy of all travelers while making travel more secure and convenient.”

Future Privacy and Safety Concerns

The stop of biometric expansion comes from push-back from privacy advocates and professionals. They have interrogated DHS and the accuracy of facial recognition, cautioning that personal information could be susceptible to hackers or used inappropriately by companies holding the data. “This proposal never should have been issued, and it is positive that the government is withdrawing it after growing opposition from the public and lawmakers,” said American Civil Liberties Union analyst Jay Stanley. “But the fact remains that the agency attempted to renege on what was already an insufficient promise, and has not yet committed to ensuring that immigrants will not be forced to submit to this program.” In response to those criticisms, DHS has made some changes, including shortening the time it will retain traveler photographs from 14 days to 12 hours.

Facial recognition scanning is still a requirement for non-citizens who travel in the U.S.

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