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DC airport tries using face recognition to catch imposters

Jon Fingas, @jonfingas
March 21, 2015
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If you come to the US through Washington DC's Dulles airport in the near future, don't be surprised if Customs and Border Protection takes your snapshot before letting you through. The agency has confirmed to Motherboard that it will be testing a facial recognition system which captures a photo and compares it against your passport picture to see if you're an imposter. The relatively short (2 to 3 months) trial won't rely solely on face detection to flag suspicious travelers, but it could give customs agents a way to double-check identities without relying so heavily on keen eyes and intuition.

As you might guess, this government-backed face detection is raising a lot of privacy concerns. CBP won't directly link photos to people and promises to delete the images once the experiment is over, but critics are worried that the timestamps would make it possible to link a person to a given portrait. Also, there's no guarantee that a full-fledged program would be as respectful of your privacy as officials attest -- the TSA misrepresented what its millimeter wave scanners could do, for example. While there's no certainty this trial will prove successful, let alone lead to an Orwellian future for air travel, it's easy to understand why you'd feel anxious.

[Image credit: Paul J. Richards/AFP/Getty Images]

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