Homeland Security is walking back its plans to use facial recognition on US citizens travelling internationally

New biometric facial recognition scanners in Dulles airport in September 2018. Bill O’Leary/The Washington Post via Getty Image
  • The Department of Homeland Security will not require travelling US citizens to participate in a facial recognition screening, the agency announced Wednesday.
  • The announcement reverses a DHS proposal last week that would have mandated that all US citizens have their faces scanned when travelling internationally.
  • Facial recognition scanning is already a requirement for non-citizens who travel in the US.
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The Department of Homeland Security is changing course on a policy introduced last week that would have required all US citizens travelling internationally to have their faces scanned and added to a biometric database.

That proposed policy is now being abandoned, and US citizens will not be required to participate in facial recognition tracking at airports, Customs and Border Protection said on Wednesday.

CBP said the reversal was the result of conversations with “privacy experts,” lawmakers, and travel-industry stakeholders.

“CBP is committed to keeping the public informed about our use of facial comparison technology,” John Wagner, a Border Patrol said in a statement. “We are implementing a biometric entry-exit system that protects the privacy of all travellers while making travel more secure and convenient.”

Foreign nationals are already required to be photographed when entering the United States. When CBP announced last week that it would expand that requirement to US citizens, the proposed rule sparked backlash from privacy and human rights advocates.

“This proposal never should have been issued, and it is positive that the government is withdrawing it after growing opposition from the public and lawmakers,” American Civil Liberties Union analyst Jay Stanley said in a statement to Federal Computer Week. “But the fact remains that the agency attempted to renege on what was already an insufficient promise, and has not yet committed to ensuring that immigrants will not be forced to submit to this program.”

Read CBP’s full statement on the rule reversal here.