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Tell Congress: No biometric surveillance at airports

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The petition to Congress reads:

"Prevent the unchecked expansion of biometric surveillance of innocent people. Reject Senate Bill 1872, the TSA Modernization Act."

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    Tell Congress: No biometric surveillance at airports

    As millions of people face long airport lines and invasive security screenings over the holidays, Congress is considering a bill that would turn this annual ritual into a much more alarming intrusion of privacy.

    The innocent-sounding TSA Modernization Act (S. 1872) directs the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) to start deploying facial recognition and other biometric technology in airports. If the bill passes, the TSA would use this data to track, store and share information about our movements as we travel.

    Tell Congress: Prevent the unchecked expansion of biometric surveillance of innocent Americans. Reject the TSA Modernization Act.

    Although Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) agents already use facial recognition screening on passengers on certain international flights, this bill would dramatically step up surveillance of innocent people.1 If it passes, the TSA and CBP would start deploying biometric technology – things like fingerprinting, retina scans and facial recognition – at checkpoints, screen lanes, bag drops and boarding areas. 2

    This has big implications for our privacy and civil liberties. Although these agencies are supposed to delete facial images after 14 days, they can keep and even share them with other local, state and federal authorities.3 Facial recognition technology has problems with accuracy – especially for non-white people, who are much more likely to be targeted for surveillance.4 But even if the technology improves, dramatically increasing government surveillance is dangerous. There is no guarantee that data won't be hacked by thieves or foreign governments, misused by rogue government employees, or used to spy on activists or dissenters.

    This very personal kind of surveillance could become increasingly ubiquitous. The Department of Homeland Security is considering facial recognition drones, which could be used at interior checkpoints – anywhere within 100 miles of a border.5 About two-thirds of Americans live within that area, making "border security" a meaningless term that allows the government to conduct surveillance on anyone at any time.6

    We cannot allow unaccountable government agencies to slowly erode our civil liberties.

    Tell Congress: Prevent the unchecked expansion of biometric surveillance of innocent Americans. Reject the TSA Modernization Act.

    References:

    1. Adam Schwartz, "No Airport Biometric Surveillance," Electronic Frontier Foundation, Oct. 3, 2017.
    2. Ibid.
    3. Matthew Feeney, "Senate Bill Paves Way For Airport Facial Scans," Forbes, Oct. 6, 2017.
    4. Clare Garvie and Jonathan Frankle, "Facial-Recognition Software Might Have a Racial Bias Problem," The Atlantic, April 2016.
    5. Adam Schwartz, "No Airport Biometric Surveillance."
    6. Matthew Feeney, "Senate Bill Paves Way For Airport Facial Scans."
    7. Ibid.