ACLU Sues For Government Facial Recognition Records


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The American Civil Liberties Union and New York Civil Liberties Union are challenging federal law enforcement’s use of facial recognition surveillance tech.

A lawsuit was filed Thursday against the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Customs and Border Protection (CBP), Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), and Transportation Security Administration (TSA).

The agencies reportedly failed to comply with requests filed under the Freedom of Information Act.

So the ACLU is asking a federal court to order each department to turn over records concerning facial surveillance and biometric data.

“Unlike other ways of verifying a person’s identity, face recognition technology can enable persistent government surveillance on a massive scale,” Ashley Gorski, staff attorney with the ACLU’s National Security Project, said in a statement.

As of June 2019, CBP scanned the mugs of more than 20 million travelers entering and exiting the United States, according to an ACLU blog post. Several major airlines and the TSA have also partnered with Border Protection on face surveillance initiatives.

“The public has a right to know when, where, and how the government is using face recognition,” she continued. “And what safeguards, if any, are in place to protect our rights.”

The lawsuit is part of the ACLU’s ongoing efforts to bring facial surveillance technology under democratic control.

A number of cities and municipalities across the country have already passed or are considering bans on law enforcement’s use of face recognition software, according to the nonprofit.

“That we even need to go to court to pry out this information further demonstrates why we should be wary of weak industry proposals and why lawmakers urgently need to halt … use of this technology,” Gorski said. “There can be no meaningful oversight or accountability with such excessive, undemocratic secrecy.”

CBP, ICE, and TSA declined to comment on the pending litigation; Homeland Security did not immediately respond to Geek’s request for comment.

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