While the pandemic has severely impacted travel, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has used the downtime to ramp up biometric spying technology at 76 airports around the country.
Those eﬀorts are detailed in a recently released the “CBP Trade and Travel Report.” The report details measures by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection to increase surveillance using technologies including facial recognition. “Despite the overall decrease in travel, biometric processing increased dramatically. CBP biometrically processed more than 23 million travelers using biometric facial comparison technology at entry, exit, and Preclearance locations.”
The COVID pandemic has opened the door to a “Trusted Traveler” database that ups the ante on intrusive anti-privacy data scraping using various forms of high-tech:
“CBP has embarked on transformative initiatives to expand air and sea traveler technologies, grow trusted traveler programs, implement biometrics, automate forms collection, and eliminate duplicative processes.
In FY2020, CBP enrolled 376,000 new members into one of the four Trusted Traveler programs: Global Entry, NEXUS, SENTRI or FAST. More than 9.6 million members enjoyed the benefits of expedited processing as a Trusted Traveler in FY2020.”
The report also talked about an initiative euphemistically titled “Simplified Arrival.” The process uses facial recognition technology to identify travelers and retrieve “records.” The CBP spin is that the new system merely streamlines a cumbersome process of document scans and fingerprint captures, etc. It is not only being used stateside but also at international airports.
“Simplified Arrival is the first step in re-envisioning how travelers arrive in the United States. In two years, the CBP’s Global Entry Facial Comparison program has expanded to 20 international airports in the U.S. To address the growing volume of Global Entry travelers, CBP launched a Global Entry facial comparison pilot program at Orlando International Airport on June 21, 2018. Facial comparison technology has reduced the processing time at Global Entry kiosks by almost 90 percent, and was expanded to 19 additional airports during FY2020.”
How does facial scanning work in a COVID world of masks? It turns out, better than you might think. Homeland Security recently said that Feds can ID airline passengers wearing masks with 77 to 96 percent accuracy.