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DHS will use facial recognition to scan travelers at the border

The system it’s testing will take images of people in their cars.
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John Moore via Getty Images

Last year, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) put out a notice, saying it was looking for a facial recognition system that could work with images taken of people inside their cars. The idea was that such a system could be used to scan people entering and leaving the country through the US/Mexico border and match them to government documents like passports and visas. Now, The Verge reports that DHS will be launching a test of a system aiming to do just that.

The Vehicle Face System, as it's called, is scheduled for an initial deployment in August and it will be installed at the Anzalduas border crossing. The test will take place over one year and will aim to take images of passengers in every car that enters or leaves the US through the crossing. Those images will be matched to government documents and travelers will be verified before they get to the border checkpoint, in theory.

While car windshield reflections have typically prohibited facial recognition systems from being effective with images taken through windshields, those behind these tests are hoping to get around that problem. They're using sensors that can capture images at multiple focal lengths, which might allow the system to differentiate people from reflections.

The work is part of a larger biometric data project that currently includes ongoing facial recognition pilots in eight airports including the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, Washington Dulles International Airport, JFK International Airport and Chicago O'Hare International Airport.

There are, of course, concerns over how this technology will be implemented. "This is a way for the federal government to track people -- monitoring who goes where and what they do there," ACLU attorney Mitra Ebadolahi told The Verge. "In a free society, we should all be able to safely live our lives without being watched and targeted by the federal government."

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