Smile as You Board

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Airport waiting room

U.S. authorities, in a bid to stop aliens from overstaying their visas, aim to apply face recognition to nearly all travelers leaving the U.S.

What’s new: Within four years, U.S. Customs and Border Protection expects to scan the faces of 97 percent of air travelers leaving the U.S., according to a new report from the Dept. of Homeland Security.

How it works: Passengers approaching airport gates will be photographed and their faces will be compared to collected photos from passports, visas, and earlier border crossings. If the system finds a match, it creates an exit record.

Behind the news: The CBP plan is already well underway:

  • The agency has been scanning faces in 15 airports since late last year.
  • JetBlue rolled out face recognition at New York’s JFK International Airport in November.
  • Other airports have committed to implementing the technology, the DHS says.

Why it matters: Face recognition is a flashpoint for discussions of ethics in AI. Microsoft refused to supply it to a California law enforcement agency over concern that built-in bias would work against women and minorities. Amazon employees have petitioned the company to stop selling similar technology to law enforcement agencies.

Bottom line: U.S. companies are wrestling with self-regulation in lieu of legal limits on how AI can be used. Their choices will have a huge impact on the industry and society at large.


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