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DHS renews facial recognition plans

In this illustration, a man's face is cut out into digital blocks.
Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios Visuals

The Department of Homeland Security recently updated its proposal to include U.S. citizens in facial recognition databases when entering or leaving the country.

The big picture: This move is part of the agency's long-term plan to upgrade the TSA's biometrics and identification technology, which has included facial recognition testing at over a dozen major airports.

Where it stands: U.S. citizens can opt out of having their picture processed at airports to verify their identity, per Customs and Border Protection (CBP) policy.

Yes, but: ACLU senior policy analyst Jay Stanley described incidents from the past few months in which two U.S. citizens — at Dublin preclearance and Dulles International Airport — were told by CBP officers they were not allowed to opt out of entering the TSA's facial recognition database.

  • In another case, Stanley said a U.S. citizen was detained for an hour and interrogated for opting out.
  • Stanley, who attended a CBP briefing on the new policy Tuesday, said the agency suggested that they were strongly considering not making facial recognition checkpoints mandatory for U.S. citizens.

What's new: The DHS' latest proposal cites the duties of the CBP commissioner as part of why it would have the legal authority to require U.S. citizens to participate in facial recognition at points of entry.

Background: CBP says it has used facial recognition to match travelers' photos with their identity documents in more than 20 U.S. airports. The agency was testing its biometric exit program at 13 major airports in June of last year.

  • CBP says it discards all photos of U.S. citizens within 12 hours of identity verification.

The bottom line: The DHS has extended its timetable to August 2020 to implement its new facial recognition rules.

Go deeper: House Democrats ask DHS to address use of facial recognition on U.S. citizens

Editor’s note: This post has been corrected to eliminate an inaccurate reference to Amazon Web Services.