Compliance Management, Threat Management, Privacy

USSS test facial recognition pilot at White House


Travelers to the Washington D.C., area should avoid visiting the White House if they don’t want their faces captured and logged in a new Secret Service-operated surveillance program.

The program, currently just a pilot, will seek to test the agency’s ability to verify the identities of a test population of volunteer USSS employees.

“Ultimately, the goal of the FRP (Facial Recognition Pilot) is to identify if facial recognition technologies can be of assistance to the USSS in identifying known subjects of interest prior to initial contact with law enforcement at the White House Complex,” the DHS said in a report detailing the program. “The collection of volunteer subject data will assist USSS in testing the ability of facial recognition technology to identify known individuals and to determine if biometric technology can be incorporated into the continuously evolving security plan at the White House Complex.”

The program will record people on the sidewalks and street surrounding the area and there is no way to avoid having your face recorded for the program. The ACLU has taken issue with the program and has voiced concern.  

“While this pilot program seems to be a relatively narrowly defined test that does not in itself pose a significant threat to privacy, it crosses an important line by opening the door to the mass, suspicionless scrutiny of Americans on public sidewalks,” the ACLU said in a Dec. 5 blog post. “That makes it worth pausing to ask how the agency’s use of face recognition is likely to expand — and the constitutional concerns that it raises.”

The civil liberties group went on to say facial recognition tech is the most dangerous biometrics from a privacy standpoint because it can easily be expanded and abused such as be deployed on a wide scale without people’s knowledge or permission.

The ACLU went on to question how people would be labeled persons of interest if the program were taken outside of its initial testing phase, how wide a radius will be monitored by the technology, and is there any reason to suspect it wouldn’t want to follow “subjects of interest” 24/7 and nationwide if technology makes that easy enough.

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