Biometric scans at airports across the country may not be legal, report claims

biometric scans airport unlawful 72668962 m
Supparsorn Wantarnagon / 123RF

Going through security at our nation’s airports is always one of the lowlights of traveling, but now, it may not just be the inconvenience of the process that’s frustrating travelers — it could be the unlawfulness as well. A new report from Georgetown Law’s Center on Privacy and Technology calls into question the Department of Homeland Security’s new biometric exit pilot program.

Currently live in nine airports across the U.S., the program leverages facial recognition technology to ID passengers taking off on international travel. The point of the program, the DHS claims, is to prevent flyers from attempting to use others’ travel documents, like passports and visas. But according to Georgetown Law, it might not be totally legal.

The main issue at hand, the report notes, is that Congress has not approved DHS to scan American citizens’ faces. While Georgetown notes that Congress “has repeatedly ordered the collection of biometrics from foreign nationals at the border,” the lawmaking body has “never clearly authorized the border collection of biometrics from American citizens using face recognition technology.” As such, DHS does not actually have the explicit permission of Congress to collect the personal data of travelers (but obviously, it is doing so anyway).

Moreover, while a biometric screening system has been brought up in Congress, neither the legislative branch nor DHS “has ever justified the need for the program,” Georgetown Law noted. While DHS has claimed that airport scans can verify traveler identities, the Department has itself called into question “the additional value biometric air exit would provide,” as well as the “overall value and cost of a biometric air exit capability.”

Indeed, it doesn’t seem as though biometric scanning is in fact all that effective. DHS’ data suggests that one out of 25 travelers are mistakenly rejected — that is to say that 4 percent of folks using valid credentials are said to be impostors. This, Georgetown Law suggests, could result in more than 1,600 passengers to be delayed or denied boarding each day at New York’s John F. Kennedy Airport.

Finally, Georgetown Law raises privacy concerns, calling the program “a serious escalation of biometric scanning of Americans” without any “codified rules that constrain it.” These concerns have not gone unnoticed, as lawmakers have since sent a letter to DHS to ask for more information about the program. But for the time being, you may have to have your face scanned at the airport.

Emerging Tech

From tornado flushes to remote controls, modern toilets are flush with tech

With the global observance of World Toilet Day on November 19, we take a look at how the modern toilet in our homes and businesses have evolved, and how they are becoming smarter tools in the future.
Movies & TV

The best shows on Netflix, from 'The Haunting of Hill House’ to ‘The Good Place’

Looking for a new show to binge? Lucky for you, we've curated a list of the best shows on Netflix, whether you're a fan of outlandish anime, dramatic period pieces, or shows that leave you questioning what lies beyond.

Uber rolls out rewards program that lets its most loyal riders lock in prices

Uber launched a new loyalty program today called Uber Rewards. It offers frequent riders credits to Uber Eats, car upgrades, and the ability to lock in prices on their most traveled routes.
Emerging Tech

Step inside the Nepalese restaurant staffed by robot waiters

A robotics startup from Nepal has created a robot waiter called Ginger. It's capable of delivering food from kitchen to table, and can even engage customers in a bit of friendly banter as it does so.
Emerging Tech

Doctors could soon ditch stitches and seal skin wounds with lasers

Just like the dermal regenerator in Star Trek, physicians may soon be able to heal skin wounds using smart, laser-based technology. That's thanks to researchers from Arizona State University.
Emerging Tech

NASA selects the all-important landing site for its Mars 2020 rover mission

NASA said on Monday that the landing site for its much-anticipated Mars 2020 rover mission has the potential to "revolutionize how we think about Mars and its ability to harbor life."
Emerging Tech

NASA’s ‘space wheat’ is helping earthbound farmers grow crops quicker

Could NASA technology for growing plants on other planets help farmers improve crop yield here on Earth? According to researchers in Australia and the U.K., the answer is a resounding yes.
Emerging Tech

Toilet-scrubbing robot takes over one of the world’s crappiest jobs

When it comes to jobs that none of us enjoy, scrubbing the toilet would have to rank pretty highly. So why not hand the job over to robots? Very soon you might be able to do exactly that.

Cyber Monday 2018: When it takes place and where to find the best deals

Cyber Monday is still a ways off, but it's never too early to start planning ahead. With so many different deals to choose from during one of the biggest shopping holidays of the year, going in with a little know-how makes all the…
Emerging Tech

SpaceX’s Big Falcon Rocket goes bolder, changes its name to Starship

Elon Musk has revealed that he's changing the name of SpaceX's Big Falcon Rocket to the grander Starship. It's getting a redesign and may even be one day used to visit other star systems trillions of miles away.

This all-in-one shaving system lets you use over 40 blades from different brands

Trazor shaving system gives you the ability to shave using most of your favorite blades from various brands like Gillette and Schick. It even squirts out water, shaving gel, and aftershave making it an ideal solution for traveling.
Emerging Tech

The best drone photos from around the world

Most of today's drones come equipped with high-end cameras, which are quickly revolutionizing the world of aerial photography as we know it. Here are some of the best drone photos from around the world.
Smart Home

With Personal Food Computers, nerd farmers are finding the best way to grow

MIT research scientist Caleb Harper wants to grow basil designed to prevent heart disease. It involves a personal food computer, climate manipulation, and open sourcing food. One day, your doctor could prescribe you a diet of food grown…
Emerging Tech

Internet of cows? Smart ear tag takes cattle tracking into the future

An Australian startup wants to bring cattle farming into the present day with smart ear tags capable of revealing where herds are grazing, and even if animals are sick or about to give birth.