Concerns Raised About $1 Billion Facial Scan Program With High Error Rate at Nine US Airports

This month, Senators Mike Lee, a Republican, and Edward Markey, a Democrat, called for a halt to the expansion of a $1 billion airport facial scanning program that the Department of Homeland Security uses to identify travelers on some flights that depart from nine US airports: Boston, Las Vegas, Miami, New York’s John F. Kennedy, Washington Dulles, both Houston airports, Chicago O’Hare and Atlanta. Congress has approved the program for use on non-US citizens but never expressly authorized its use on Americans. The senators also asked DHS to provide data about the accuracy of the scans and cited a study by the Center on Privacy and Technology that said the technology had high error rates and was subject to bias, because the scans often fail to properly identify women and African Americans. We speak with Ron Nixon, homeland security correspondent for The New York Times.

TRANSCRIPT

AMY GOODMAN: Ron, I want to ask about another article you wrote, during this busy travel season. This month, Senators Mike Lee, Republican, Ed Markey, Democrat, called for a halt to the expansion of a $1 billion airport facial scanning program that the Department of Homeland Security uses to identify travelers on some flights that depart from nine US airports: Boston, Las Vegas, Miami, New York’s JFK, Washington Dulles, both Houston airports, Chicago O’Hare and Atlanta. Congress has approved the program for use on non-US citizens but never expressly authorized its use on Americans. In a letter to Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, the senators asked for a, quote, “explanation for why DHS believes it has the authority to proceed.”

The senators also asked DHS to provide data about the accuracy of the scans, and cited a study by the Center on Privacy and Technology, that you reported on, which said the technology has high error rates and is subject to bias, because the scans often fail to properly identify women and African Americans. You cite Harrison Rudolph, an associate at…

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