back to article Trump Administration fast-tracks compulsory border facial recognition scans for all US citizens

The Trump Administration is planning to fast-track a new policy of compulsory facial recognition at the border, and including US citizens and permanent residents in its plans for the first time. The move is outlined in a newly released list [PDF] of regulatory priorities for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and also …

  1. elDog

    Only reason to "fast-track" is because there's $$$s to be made

    and the peeResident of the US needs more. And the MIC is happy to oblige.

  2. JohnFen Silver badge

    Not surprising

    Remember when they promised that facial recognition would never be used against US citizens? I do. This is yet another in the ongoing cascade of promises that Trump has broken.

    1. The_Idiot

      Re: Not surprising

      @JohnFen

      Well, given the current state of 'politici-speak', I suggest the key weasel word here will be 'against'. They'll argue it isn't being used _against_ US citizens, because it's being used to 'protect' them and 'increase their security', so it's being used _for_ US citizens. Sigh...

      1. JohnFen Silver badge

        Re: Not surprising

        Well, "against" was my word, not theirs. But your underlying point is well-taken nonetheless.

        1. The_Idiot

          Re: Not surprising

          https://www.washingtonpost.com/technology/2019/07/09/facial-recognition-use-by-federal-agencies-draws-lawmakers-anger/

          "Gov. Gary R. Herbert (R) said in a statement that he “is committed to ensuring that Utah’s facial recognition system will only be used for law enforcement purposes and never against law-abiding Utahns.”"

          Now to be filed under 'well, I was only joking', maybe?

          1. JohnFen Silver badge

            Re: Not surprising

            Hmm, I chose the word in an attempt to speak truth through snark. But I guess I didn't snark hard enough!

  3. Christoph Silver badge

    Look at the names of the people who produce technical breakthroughs in the US (which the US is critically dependent on). A very large proportion of those names are not Anglo-Saxon.

    1. NonyaDB

      Contrary to popular belief, the U.S. isn't dependent on call centers in Mumbai.

    2. Pascal Monett Silver badge

      Careful.

      Second-generation immigrants are born in the country and raised in the country and are just as much a citizen as you are (*). A name does not imply that the person is not from your country.

      * - not saying that 1st-generation immigrants aren't, obviously, as long as they've been officially accepted through the immigration process.

    3. JohnFen Silver badge

      Yes, so what?

  4. Mark 85 Silver badge

    We're getting one step closer to being stopped while walking down the street and having someone step out and ask to see your papers. I fear more and more for the Republic every day of late.

    1. Graybyrd
      Boffin

      State border crossings, too

      We in the US are also getting closer to port-of-entry check stations at all state border crossings for every traveler, not just commercial truck traffic. All the better to 'protect' us from the criminals, fugitives, malcontents, and anti-government internet radicals in our midst. Facial recognition along with the fruit transport inspections. Much more efficient; so much more comprehensive.

      1. prinz

        Re: State border crossings, too

        @Graybyrd,

        Are you referring to States bordering other countries? Or borders between States?

        If the latter, can you give an example of a point-of-entry check station between States?

        All I see, if I'm lucky, are signs that say "Welcome to State XYZ" - and sometimes I'll see "Now Leaving State ABC".

        1. Mike 16 Silver badge

          Re: State border crossings, too

          @Prinz You must not travel much (at all?) between agricultural states.

          At least California and (dimly recall) some of the mountain and midwestern states have these stations.

          Or you may travel at the wee hours when (some of?) those border stations are closed (because of course all avocado and ferret smugglers are diurnal).

          1. prinz

            Re: State border crossings, too

            I travel throughout a subset of the Midwest - Ohio, Indiana, Kentucky and West Virginia. I cross over and back between States without an issue. Never a problem, never stopped.

            But, then again, I'm not a trucker hauling produce or whatever California is worried about. (I do note that the other comments and yours have one thing in common : California.)

            That being said, the worry that other States will suddenly spend a lot of money to throw up border checkpoints is highly dubious - too many roads between States, some cities crossing State lines, too expensive and way too politically negative (except evidently, California).

            1. ScrappyLaptop2

              Re: State border crossings, too

              California's 16 border inspection station are manned by the State Dept of Food and Agriculture, not by Federal DHS. They were put in place to protect crops - and thus, the state's economy - from threats such as (originally, IIR) the Mediterranean Fruit Fly and have remained fairly true to that purpose by inspecting vehicles coming into the state. Especially commercial vehicles.

              https://www.cdfa.ca.gov/plant/pe/ExteriorExclusion/borders.html

              1. Mike 16 Silver badge

                Re: State border crossings, too

                I first encountered the agricultural inspection stations about 1959. MedFlys were news maybe 30 years later. So I doubt that they were the impetus. If Doc Brown had an effective time machine it could perhaps have been better used _before_ they arrived en masse.

                The point about "so many roads" could have some validity. The Rocky Mountains, Sierras, and similar do have the effect of funneling traffic through a very few crossings, making borders of any sort more cost-effective. In contrast, stopping all "smuggling" along/across the Mississippi River would be a lot tougher.

                1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge
                  Coat

                  Re: State border crossings, too

                  " In contrast, stopping all "smuggling" along/across the Mississippi River would be a lot tougher."

                  Easy. Just build a wall.

        2. FarnworthexPat

          Re: State border crossings, too

          >>If the latter, can you give an example of a point-of-entry check station between States?

          Oregon into California on I5

          1. JohnFen Silver badge

            Re: State border crossings, too

            Yes. Fortunately, that check is extremely cursory. All they do is ask you if you have any prohibited produce in your vehicle. If you say yes, they'll require that you dispose of them or show a permit for them. If you say no, then off you go. I've never heard of anybody actually being searched or anything.

    2. JohnFen Silver badge

      Nobody will step out and ask to see your papers. They won't have to, because you'll already have been surveilled within an inch of your life. That's the entire point.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Endemic in the UK as well, Scot gov the worst by far, derided labours ID database and stood against it and then had the brass neck to pillage the NHS database to build their own while bleating "its not an ID card database, It'll help find missing kids for one" which the ICO savaged them on, as did Open Rights Group....

  5. IGotOut

    Hmmmmm

    Is this the same US adminstration that has put Chinese facial recognition companies on a black list?

    Now it makes sense. Ban Chinese companies THEN make it a requirement.

    USA! USA! US.... oh sorry, the "A" just fell off.

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: Hmmmmm

      "Anything you can do I can do better".

  6. veti Silver badge

    Given the long-running outrage of fingerprinting all visitors on arrival, photography as well seems pretty trivial in comparison.

    And I'm also having some difficulty with the idea of portraying it as "invasive biometric scanning". A photograph is hardly the most invasive thing you expect to happen when you pass through an airport.

    Kudos at least to the gov't for finally admitting that there's no (legal) way to treat foreigners and citizens at the border any differently. It'll take time, but one day I expect the message will eventually percolate the American consciousness that they are not immune - anything they can do to us aliens, they can do to you citizens too.

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      "anything they can do to us aliens, they can do to you citizens too."

      And the citizens will have no way of stopping it.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      It's not a photograph, it's facial recognition. The difference is that the latter implies that a human being will look at the photograph and your face, and compare them. A process that's resource-consuming, and thus practically limited in scope.

      Facial recognition, on the other hand, can be made ubiquitous very easily thanks to modern technology, with no human intervention needed (until the handcuffing process, which still is manual, and is done "because the machine said so").

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        "until the handcuffing process, which still is manual,"

        Computer aimed tasers?

    3. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      "one day I expect the message will eventually percolate the American consciousness that they are not immune"

      I read the other day that only about 50% of US citizens have passports. I wonder what percentage of Trump voters have passports and is that even relevant?

  7. DougS Silver badge

    It will be useless

    Facial recognition works with a sliding scale of false positives and false negatives. The lower the rate of one, the higher the rate of the other. This isn't a problem when you want to recognize one person "who is unlocking my phone?" or a small set of people "is this person authorized to access to this facility?" but when you have a database of millions of criminals/terrorists/etc being compared to the millions who enter/exit the border daily, you will have to accept an insanely high false negative rate in order to avoid massive delays if 1 in 10 people was listed a possible match.

    Automated facial recognition simply doesn't work when trying to match millions of faces to millions of suspects. If you had a small set of suspects, like the FBI 10 most wanted plus the 10 most wanted world terrorists it would work fine. If you were only testing people who triggered some other alarm like the 'puffer test' thinking you have explosive residue on you then it would also work fine. It won't work the way they want to use it, or the way China wants to use it. Maybe someday the technology can be improved enough that it will, but there isn't anything even in the research stage that I'm aware that is anywhere near accurate enough to make this viable.

    So other than a few billion in wasted taxpayer dollars, I'm not too concerned with this. They've had cameras at the borders since before 9/11, and probably have been saving that stuff for an unlimited time since 9/11, so all they're already collecting the information.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: It will be useless

      It depends what you mean by "useless". To effecitvely catch criminals? Probably. To build a massive database of biometrics? Much more useful. And when the machine decides that *someone* is the person they're looking for, who's going to doubt its word? The US history of law enforcement shows it doesn't always matter to them if they got the right guy. As long as they got one, they can get a conviction.

      And of course, cameras in 2001 had a crappy resolution, and passports did not even contain electronics back then. So that's really an apples and oranges comparison. And since then, documentaries like "CSI" and "NCIS" have educated the public at large on the infallibility of image comparison to catch bad guys.

    2. vaporland

      Re: It will be useless

      depends if you're looking for Tuttle or Buttle...

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nSQ5EsbT4cE

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      @DougS

      You're also assuming that correct matching is the intended purpose. As opposed to giving a pretense for whatever the failed mall cops wanted to do anyway, as with k9 "alerts".

      If the algorithm performs terribly for non-Caucasians, giving DHS an excuse for enhanced screening/interrogation, that may be more of a feature than a bug. "We're not illegally profiling, the computer said they looked like criminals."

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Full DNA profiling, soon at all international airports

    Thanks for your sample. You will now be held in detention camp for 3 weeks while we await the lab results.

    Follow the red line, leave your bags behind.

    Kids, follow the green line...

    NEXT!

  9. Garymrrsn

    At a Loss For Words

    I can think of nothing derogatory to say about Trump that hasn't already been said or isn't true.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: At a Loss For Words

      Trump is what he is. The real problem is that enough people decided that he, among all people, is the most fit to be the President of the USA.

      That's the sad and scary part.

      1. stiine Silver badge

        Re: At a Loss For Words

        And the sad part is that they were correct.

        1. Oengus Silver badge

          Re: At a Loss For Words

          In a democracy you deserve who you put in power.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: At a Loss For Words

            I've got a hard time understanding if the word "democracy" applies properly to a country where the least popular of two candidates wins.

            Yes, due process was followed, electoral college, founding fathers, states, blahblah, I know all that.

            It still boils down to, the person least liked by the whole of the people got in charge.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: At a Loss For Words

              If you "know all that" then you should also be aware that the US isn't a democracy. Democracy is equivalent to mob rule. We live in a republic, we don't do mob rule. But, again, you "know all that", right?

          2. JohnFen Silver badge

            Re: At a Loss For Words

            Since Trump lost the popular vote, I think it's hard to say that he was elected democratically. He was elected by the electoral college, which is more of a republic sort of thing.

      2. LucreLout Silver badge

        Re: At a Loss For Words

        Trump is what he is. The real problem is that enough people decided that he, among all people, is the most fit to be the President of the USA.

        I'm not at all sure they did. I think they simply decided he was less unfit to run the country than Hillary Clinton. I'm pretty sure if the democrats had stood any other candidate that they'd be in power now and Trump would be onto the next Apprentice series / whatever.

        I'm equally saddened that the demos seem to be making exactly the same mistakes all over again. Stop fannying about with the senior candidates in the party and stand AOC against him. Much as I'd possibly be more of a Republican than a Democrat were I American, my view is she'd landslide it.

        Too young to have a history of corruption or incompetence, ticks all the diversity boxes democrat voters love, and against all the odds she manages that while being both seemingly competent & capable and photogenic, which is important to the instagram generation.

        1. Mephistro Silver badge
          Unhappy

          Re: At a Loss For Words

          ",,,and stand AOC against him"

          "Too young to have a history of corruption..."

          That's precisely the issue, she is too young to be allowed to run for president!*

          Note*: Which is madness, IMHO.

          1. MachDiamond Silver badge

            Re: At a Loss For Words

            Yes, AOC is too young to run for President. Candidates must be at least 35 years of age.

            I think it's a good policy and could be higher except that would take a Constitutional Amendment and that's pretty tough. To be POTUS, a person needs a far amount of life experience. IMO, they also need enough time on the planet to see if they are going to screw up really bad and filter themselves out of the running on their own.

            An "honest" politician is one that hasn't been caught yet. That may take more time in some cases.

        2. This post has been deleted by its author

  10. headrush

    I don't know why they don't just rename it the Dept of Fatherland Security and be done with it.

    They appear to believe everything they see on CSI.

  11. hammarbtyp Silver badge

    New categories for HB-1 applicants

    Melania Trump secured a EB-1 visa which are reserved for "for people who are highly acclaimed in their field", so we can assume the new HB-1 rules will be specifically aimed at young models willing to sleep with ageing millionaires (sic)

    1. tim 13

      Re: New categories for HB-1 applicants

      Only if they are good at it

  12. sbt Silver badge
    Mushroom

    Pack it up, boys; the terrorists have won.

    They've opened the door to vested interests with reactionary totalitarian tendencies to destroy western liberal democracy and the freedom of movement and expression that once went with it.

    Is it too late? Only if you take to the ballot-box and force a back-down. HK knows what's up. Do you?

  13. phuzz Silver badge
    Facepalm

    Bye

    "DHS will also push to have facial recognition and fingerprinting as a condition of exiting the US"

    I'll bet a double-digit percentage of Americans would say that anyone who chooses to voluntarily leave the US (even for a holiday) is basically a terrorist and a traitor.

    Probably 50%+ of Fox News victims viewers.

  14. Oengus Silver badge

    Who pays for the visa?

    There are a range of other proposed changes to the immigration system, many of them imposing additional fees on the individual. Individual processing fees are a remedy frequently imposed in an effort to limit applications and fund the process but critics - including the government of India - argue that it only serves to exclude people from poorer, non-Western nations while failing to address endemic problems and inconsistencies within the immigration process.

    I thought the H1-B visas were supplied to the person by the company they were going to the US to work for. If that is the case isn't it the responsibility of the company to pay for the visa fees? How does this exclude people from poorer countries? Or, is it some companies, operating in the US, pass on all of the fees to get the employee to the US to the employee because they can get away with it in their "home" country?

  15. Harry Stottle

    Are we smelling the Coffee yet?

    we've got a rich seam of State Surveillance and countermeasure stories bubbling up over the last few days. This is the third I've felt obliged to comment on today. However, to prevent RSI, forgive me for redirecting you to this comment on privacy protection (in the context of Firefox's proposed "FPN") which concludes by referring to the principle threat which comes from the State itself...

  16. EnviableOne Silver badge

    Missing the Point?

    An estimated 45 per cent of those in the country illegally enter the country under a legal visa and stay beyond its expiration.

    so this really wont affect them then

  17. OwenMc64

    Let the politicians try it too ...

    Recently it struck me that the facial recognition (or pick-your-biomteric-of-the-moment) bandwagon might move a little slower if the FIRST people to trial it were the politicians.... (+ lobbyists for the tech in question :-) )

    E.g., no access to govt buildings/canteen/car without first donating your info, and needing to be verified a couple of times a week (preferably including some larger database with loadsa bad guys of the same vintage ... :-) )

    Simple argument against - it'll cost those poor politicos time, which is OUR time.

    OK, trial it for a fixed 6-month period and feed the false-positives & other feedback into the decision making process ...

    Oh, and for extra points, make the 'cost of failure' just as friendly as they want to impose on the current subjects - re-test, revalidate & bring in all the paperwork in person (no sending aides in your place ...)

    It'd never happen, but hey, it is my least harmless fantasy relating to politicians...

    1. MachDiamond Silver badge

      Re: Let the politicians try it too ...

      The checkpoint data should also be publicly available for people being elected to public office. The database for the average citizen is going to be breached multiple times per year.

      Let's also pass laws to make it mandatory that adult entertainment venues and drinking establishments (including restaurants that serve) have biometric scanning so we can see what our politicians get up to after (or during) working hours.

  18. Erik4872

    H-1B reform

    If the only thing they're going to do is raise the fees for H-1B visas, that's pretty much no change. Companies using the H-1B for what it's intended for (bringing in talented foreign workers for a specific skill) will just have to pay more. Body shops using it to bring in cheap labor to allow an offshore outsourcer to staff on-site positions will also just pay more and nothing will change. All it will do is lower the margin a bit on an outsourcing deal and/or push more of the work offshore. We still have too many CIOs out there who have no idea how IT services are actually delivered, and they can't tell the difference between someone working for local wages and someone working for the minimum the outsourcer can get away with. (I think it's $60,000 USD, never adjusted for inflation. Not terrible for the Midwest, but poverty level wages for California/New York.)

    1. MachDiamond Silver badge

      Re: H-1B reform

      It's more than the wages. Somebody working on a H-1B visa is nearly a slave. They can be told off the record that while official policy is one thing, if they try to claim some benefit (family leave, etc) they'll be sacked and have to immediately leave the country. Quitting would also be reported to some government agency meaning they'd have to return to their home country right away. If those are the rules, you keep your head down and do as you are told.

    2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: H-1B reform

      "Body shops using it to bring in cheap labor to allow an offshore outsourcer to staff on-site positions will also just pay more and nothing will change."

      Will TrumpCorp get a special exemption for the Hotel and Golf Course staff?

  19. Palpy

    While I hope the ACLU sues and wins --

    -- on constitutional grounds, I suspect expanded authoritarian state surveillance is an unavoidable future in most currently democratic nations. I expect that, in the 30 or so years I will probably continue breathing, US citizens will be required to carry identification papers and produce them on demand... or that US citizens will be required to have state-authorized chips implanted for ID purposes. (I'm betting on the chips, actually.)

    As we breed toward 10 billion humans while the climate warms, farmland erodes and water gets scarce, then war and mass migration are the future. "Destination states" in North America and Europe will respond with increasingly draconian authoritarianism. Well, duh, they already are doing so.

    So much for that.

    I believe it was Plato who argued that democracy is unstable because as soon as a population elects a leader not because he is logically the best candidate but because he has swayed them through lies and emotion, then the democracy will become a dictatorship. In the USA, the authors of the Constitution worried about that thing quite a bit -- that a demagogue would rise to power -- and the famous checks and balances between the three branches of government were part of their answer. However, in the last 50 years (longer, actually) the legislative branch has surrendered so much power to the executive that it cannot or will not challenge the President, and the legislative branch has become so politicized as to destroy the impartiality of its rulings.

    Kurt Vonnegut: "So it goes."

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