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DHS retreats on possible facial screening of US citizens

SeattlePI.com Thursday, 5 December 2019
DALLAS (AP) — The Homeland Security Department is backing away from requiring U.S. citizens to submit to facial-recognition technology when they leave or enter the country.

The department said Thursday that it has no plans to expand facial recognition to U.S. citizens. A spokesman said DHS will delete the idea from its regulatory agenda, where privacy advocates spotted it this week.

The advocates and lawmakers accused DHS of reneging on repeated promises not to force American citizens to be photographed leaving or entering the United States, a process that is required for foreign visitors.

Sen. Edward Markey, D-Mass., called the administration's retreat “a victory for every single American traveler who flies on a plane.” He credited public pressure for the about-face, but said he still plans to introduce legislation to ban biometric surveillance of Americans.

Edward Hasbrouck, a privacy advocate who pointed out the proposal, said the matter might not be settled.

“Was this a trial balloon to find out whether the DHS had finally reached the limits of our willingness to be treated like criminals whenever we fly?” he said. “And if so, has the DHS partially backed off, at least for now? Maybe.”
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