Big brother is watching, and has been for a while. Well, kind of. Since late last year, the United States Customs and Border Patrol has been performing facial recognition scans at some airports. Specifically of people leaving the country. On one hand this could be seen as a good security measure. A way to identify the “bad guys”, so everyone else can get on a plane without any issues. But on the other hand, is this just the beginning of big brother? (Note that I am referring to George Orwell’s 1984, and not the reality show.)
CBP is saying that this will benefit travelers. Presumably by not holding up the process any further. But they also said that it’s upholding a Congressional mandate that was instituted in 1996. So why haven’t we seen more of this until now? Did the technology simply not exist? Or were there other ways of obtaining this information? There are two other really interesting points to make here. 1) The facial recognition is only going to be used on non-U.S. citizens and 2) It’s only applied when you’re leaving the country! Does anyone else not see an issue with this?
The system is explained that if your face doesn’t match an image for someone coming into the country, then they presume you entered illegally. But is that always the case? There have been several times that I drove somewhere in the United States with my father, only to fly home. So would my face be scanned at the border while in the car? Unlikely, so how can you say I entered illegally? To continue on this point, what goal is this going to achieve? I could understand it from a terrorism perspective. Or at least I can understand the theory behind the scanning, but is this just to catch undocumented aliens? I hate using that term by the way. My guess, though, is that if you entered the country illegally, you’re unlikely to be flying… and flying OUT of the country? This doesn’t make any sense.
But let’s not stop there. Where else could we see this? Is it only a matter of time before we start to see people being tracked all the time? Trump is fast tracking this system in airports, but I’m sure he would fast track it else where. For example, let’s install cameras all over a major city and then use this software to find people. Which one could see the argument in favour of if we’re looking at it from a crime perspective. But even then, there needs to be some kind of safeguard in place that protects an individual. I’m not defending people that commit crimes, but those safeguards are in place now, and they need to remain. That being said, would this allow law enforcement to track everyone, regardless?
I think it’s a slippery slope. I’m also not sure that I understand why it’s only being used when exiting. Or is the theory that your passport is scanned when you enter, and therefore the authorities have your image to scan against? But are there holes with this? Remember – this is technology. And while, technology is amazing and wonderful, it doesn’t always work. The article that I read about this originally indicated that the technology is being tested on white skinned people. So how will it work with people of colour? Will the scans work the same way? My guess is no, so I’m worried about where this will lead us in terms of racial profiling. Sure, it works on a white person, so they must be ok… but if you’re not white, and the scan doesn’t work properly, you must have done something wrong?
So, is this system being built around racial profiling? People of colour tend to be targeted far more than white people when there is an appearance of a crime. And how is this any different? I’m worried that this system is being designed and built to target certain races. And I cannot stand when we apply these kinds of filters to our way of thinking. They should be bias free. Meaning that the system itself should not be able to differentiate between colour in a way that would allow someone to be targeted. But if they’re not testing on non-white colour skin, how are they not being biased?
Regardless of the outcome, this appears to have bad news written all over it. And I think that it’s going to lead to a place that none of us want to be. And that is an Orwellian society where Big Brother is always watching. I’ve said it before, if you’re not doing something wrong then you don’t have anything to hide. But there is also something to be said about being able to live your life without the fear of being watched. Especially when you’re not doing anything wrong. Or doing anything that warrants this type of attention.