Face Scanners Coming to the Border

While the debate continues over President Trump's proposed border wall, the federal government is advancing the 'virtual wall' with new technology. Starting as early as this summer, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) plans to start a pilot program using facial recognition scanners to monitor people crossing the border in vehicles. The first test of this pilot program will be in Texas, at the busy Anzalduas Port of Entry near McAllen. Similar technology is already being used at a dozen airports around the world, including Houston's Bush Intercontinental.

The idea behind using facial scanners at the border is as much about efficiency as security. "This is a huge, transformative effort here to be able to quickly go through the land border crossing by positively identifying your citizenship and identity," says Colleen Manaher, CBP executive director of planning, program analysis and evaluation. "Think about how much more quickly that process will go, when we already know you're coming by your photo, and there's no need to have a family of 8 hand documents out the window when we already know who's in that vehicle."

Increased security and efficiency aside, the expanded use of facial scanners raises serious privacy questions for others. "There needs to be a national discussion about do we want to live in an Orwellian society, where all Americans and visitors are tracked on a regular basis using this new technology," says William Gheen with Americans for Legal Immigration PAC (ALIPAC). "The technology doesn't just stop at the borders...it's going to extend to your post office, the train station, the airport, the light pole on a city street."

CBP says the facial scanners at airports have proven to have a 98 percent success rate in identifying people, but critics point out that even being wrong once could be very dangerous.

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