facial scans coming to an airport near you

We want to protect you from the world.

I think that a lot of people want to do the right thing and protect others from bad things. Sometimes this takes shape in the form of a law or a rule that prevents bad or dangerous behavior.  The rule usually looks pretty innocuous – you should not put poisonous chemicals into peoples food or drink.  I think that everyone would easily agree to this simple rule.

Where exactly do you stop?  Does that mean that grilled food and french fries cannot be eaten as they may kill you?  Does that mean we need to tax food that when eaten in a large enough quantity will make you sick?  Should we tax foods with a high sugar content?  Perhaps we should ban some ingredients such as transfats for the same reason.  Some of the food that we eat is killing us so I guess that food or product should be eliminated – right?

This type of slippery slope is a classic example of mission creep where a focused task ends up morphing into something altogether different.

Biometric photoshoot at the airport

The project is called “Biometric Exit” and would match the photo of the visa holder as they are leaving.  I guess this would be an improvement.  Instead of a database with an entry that says the visa holder has left there will be a bigger database entry that also includes a departure picture.  I would guess an arrival photo would also be nice.

This might be an easy way to see who is overstaying their visit and I would guess the penalty for overstaying might be loss of future visa privileges.  This solution, even if rolled out to all of the american international airports, does not really track the people the US is most interested in – the people who have overstayed their limit.

Well, that is not entirely true.  I suspect that at all of those international airports your photo will be taken regardless of if you go from New York to Singapore or New York to Sacramento. If they do the second one then they are actively tracking people who are not tracking the country.

In addition to all this extra photo recognition there is another feature of this program. This facial recognition system will be shared with other agencies and perhaps the airlines themselves.  If this database is shared with the airlines it is just a hop skip and a jump before the shops in the airport scan your face and send you an sms trying to sell you stuff.

Just imagine what the next steps might be.  Simply connect this system up with the other government database.  Feed in the department of motor vehicles, US passport database, military roster database, former and current prisoners. That is just to get started, within a decade this type of photo check could be required before entering any Federal building in the US.

Beyond that, once all of the infrastructure is in place this system could eventually be used to track down anyone with an outstanding ticket, late child support payments or even if you owe income taxes.  This system could become a premier method of tracking people within the US and not just the visitors.

I am confident that the government doesn’t have anything like that in mind – right?

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