Facial Recognition Technology Leads To Immigration Arrest At Airport
By Glynn Cosker
Managing Editor, In Homeland Security
A would-be impostor was prevented from entering the United States last week when a new facial recognition system spotted something that human inspectors would almost certainly have missed.
Facial recognition is a biometric process that utilizes algorithms to identify the physical characteristics of an individual’s face and compares the results to existing photographs or videos on file with the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP).
Man Hid Real Document in his Shoes
The case – at Washington’s Dulles International Airport on Aug. 22 – involved an unidentified man who presented what looked like a genuine French passport. However, the 26-year-old – who had arrived on a flight from Brazil – was interrogated after the facial recognition system detected that the man’s face and the photo in the passport were not an exact match.
During the subsequent meeting with customs officials, an identification card from the Republic of Congo was discovered under the sole of the man’s shoe. The man was arrested and sent back to Brazil on the next available flight.
Facial Recognition Is ‘Important Step’ For CBP
“Facial recognition technology is an important step forward for CBP in protecting the United States from all types of threats,” Casey Durst, CBP’s Director of the Baltimore Field Office, told the Washington Post. “The new facial recognition technology virtually eliminates the ability for someone to use a genuine document that was issued to someone else.”
Facial recognition is currently being tested at 14 U.S. airports, including Dulles, and the arrest last week was the first of its kind in the nation’s history, and it is almost certainly a precursor for future apprehensions.
“You can much more accurately identify who an individual is,” former DHS Assistant Secretary David Heyman told NBC News. He further stated that the new system makes it much easier to “target the individuals who are unlawfully present in the United States.”
Privacy and Accuracy Concerns
As with many other biometric systems, some groups are concerned about the invasion of privacy that accompanies the new technology; some are also troubled by the possibility of mistakes from misidentification. However, the facial recognition method employed at airports has a reported 99 percent success rate, and experts believe that this type of biometric technology could exponentially prevent people from entering the U.S. illegally and identify undocumented immigrants who are already here.
Your Face As Your Boarding Pass
Facial recognition could also potentially speed up the process for all airline passengers – including their initial check-in. In fact, CBP has stated that a person’s face may eventually become his or her boarding pass.
“Our goal is to have this in place over the next four years,” CBP executive, Dan Tanciar, told USA Today in February. “On inbound international travel, you’ll be able to leave the passport in your pocket” he added.
If the system is deemed effective, more airports will go online with facial recognition in the coming months.