Crossing the borders in or out of the United States by land is already a nightmare. This is because of the strict procedures and regulations that are in place. The jobs of the border officials are helped by the use of a wide range of technology. While these gadgets simplify things for them, it can make the nightmare even worse for those who are trying to get in or out of the United States.
Just some of the technology they currently use includes handheld metal detectors, towers that are fitted with surveillance cameras, imaging devices, and radars to scan for distant movement. They also have scanners for RFID travel documents, fibreoptic scopes for looking into tight spaces, and a radiation-monitoring system that is used for potentially radioactive cargo.
As if this list of technology available to the officials is not long enough, they now have a new piece of innovative equipment. It now seems that they will be using facial recognition technology. This news has come from a report that has looked at documents that were obtained through a request relating to the Freedom of Information Act.
The documents revealed that researchers from Oak Ridge National Labs in Tennessee had conducted a year-long test throughout 2016. This involved them collating videos and images of thousands of vehicles that passed through the border crossings in Arizona and Texas. The success of this test has led to the Customs and Border Protection department decided to roll out the study on a larger scale. It is intended that this will begin in August 2018.
In the original study, the researchers from Oak Ridge utilized multiple conventional DSLR cameras. These captured various focal lengths and around 1,400 photographs were taken. The documents make it clear that the images were at no point used to identify individuals. It was also stated that all the images were destroyed once the study was completed.
The project tested innovative new camera technology that has been called Vehicle Face System. This technology can capture multiple depths of field at the same time. It is necessary to have technology that can capture multiple depths as car windshields make it tricky to get a reliable scan of the passengers in the vehicle if using a single depth field.
This new system will make a comparison of images they already have on file with the images taken from the scans. In theory, this system could help them to identify people of interest and detect anomalies.
The Vehicle Face System is just one aspect of a larger project that is being conducted by Customs and Border Protection which is called the Biometric Exit program. The purpose of this is to verify the identity of visa-holders who are trying to leave the United States. Biometric scanning technology is easy to use in an airport setting as the travelers remain in one area and are not concealed by a vehicle. Customs and Border Protection are aiming to find a way that they can apply such technology to land crossings by scanning the faces of every single person that is either leaving or entering the United States by land.
Using facial recognition technology could really help the border officials. They are short staffed, and this could help them to fulfill their difficult roles. It could also reduce the rate of people illegally leaving or entering the country and deter people from smuggling illegal substances. Clearly, there are many potential benefits to the use of such technology.
However, there are also some problems with facial recognition technology, especially while this technology is still in its infancy. One of the main issues is the technology could make mistakes and incriminate innocent people of wrongdoing. There is already similar technology in use in other parts of the world and this has shown imperfect results.
Some people are also concerned about an invasion of their privacy, but border officials do not need to obtain people’s consent to get these images. A further concern is that previous studies have shown that the system is swayed by a person’s skin color and this leaves the technology open to criticisms relating to racial discrimination.
This system needs further testing before it becomes widely used at borders. Hopefully, the benefits of using facial recognition technology will outweigh the potential issues.