The Associated Press
U.S. Unveils ID System

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The public got its first look Tuesday at fingerprinting and photo equipment that will be installed at 115 airports and 14 seaports to check identities of millions of foreign visitors.

The equipment, which goes into use Jan. 5, will allow inspectors to check identities of visitors against those on terrorist watch lists.
[...]
The system consists of a small box that digitally scans fingerprints and a spherical computer camera that snaps pictures. It will be used for the estimated 24 million foreigners traveling on tourist, business and student visas who enter through an airport or seaport.

I wonder what they're going to use this data for? I wonder if they are going to "share" it with other governments. If they start putting these things all over the place, the risk to someone getting on some "list" will not be limited to just being harassed entering the US.

3 Comments

If the visitor's data is immediatly discarded if there is no match, then this is probably not a bad idea.

And if there is quick, convenient, and sure process for challenging the match and clearing the data if the challenge is successful,then this is probably not a bad idea.

However, with the current US regime in place with its current biases, I'm not confident that a complete, transparent process recognizing and protecting human rights will be in place.

I agree that this is a good program, but it needs to be watched for "feature creep." Ideally, in the enabling legislation it should have specified complete details on how the information can be used, who has access to it (and who doesn't), a procedure for outside monitoring and auditing, and how long the data will be maintained. In addition, it should have specified that anything resulting from the collection of this data can only be used for the stated, narrow purposes. For example, if the purpose is to prevent terrorism and immigration fraud, and if this fingerprint system catches a tax-evading, deadbeat dad, mass-murderer via some sort of unauthorized exhange of data with the IRS or the FBI, then the guy should not be able to be held or prosecuted for the crimes based on any evidence tracable to the unauthorized use of the fingerprint data.

My daughter and her Canadian husband just made it back into the U.S. after going for a weekend Mother's Day visit in 2002 and being denied re-entry for 15 months. It's already appalling how much power the INS has, and they seem to use it haphazardly, based on not liking the "look" of this one or the "answer" someone else gives. This separated our family for a year and a half, cost both kids (ages 27 and 22) their jobs, and forced them to live under a strange cloud of fear ("what if we're on some list? what if our paperwork never goes through?") that was utterly outrageous. Innocent travelers, real people with real lives, are the ones paying for the INS failure on 9/11. There's got to be a better way to improve security than treating everyone coming into your country like a criminal.

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