DHS to American Citizens: Let Us Scan Your Faces, or No International Travel

Another nugget of privacy threatened in the name of national security.


Facial recognition
Boris Roessler/dpa/picture-alliance/Newscom

Prepare to get your faces scanned whether you like it or not, U.S. citizens, if you want to fly to other countries.

It won't be those other countries scanning your mug to make sure it's safe to let you in. These facial recognition and biometric systems, allegedly intended to track foreign travelers for immigration enforcement, will be foisted on you by your own government.

Don't blame this on President Donald Trump's anti-immigration fearmongering. This pilot project was put into place a year ago by President Barack Obama's Department of Homeland Security (DHS). You might not have heard much about it yet, because Americans' participation in it is currently voluntary. But as the program expands next year, it may get more coercive.

A new report from DHS claims that they have the authority to require citizens to let the government scan their faces as a condition of getting on an international flight. The report says early on, "Because crossing the border is considered voluntary, travelers are subject to the laws and rules enforced by" Customs and Border Protection (CBP).

That logic may not exactly hold up to close scrutiny—speech is often voluntary, but that doesn't mean the government can regulate it—but the report rolls with it, arguing that the government's right to inspect travelers extends to biometric scans:

[T]he only way for an individual to ensure he or she is not subject to collection of biometric information when traveling internationally is to refrain from traveling. Individuals seeking to travel internationally are subject to the laws and rules enforced by CBP and are subject to inspection.

Another way to ensure citizens aren't subject to having their biometric information collected try to get the courts or lawmakers to stop it. The Associated Press notes that Sen. Edward Markey (D-Mass.) thinks U.S. citizens should be able to opt out of the program.

The report does mention the possibility that travelers will be allowed to opt out of the scans and prove their identity another way. But as this report and the AP coverage notes, there is a significant likelihood that such requests might not be honored in the future.

The plan also calls for deleting all scans of U.S. citizens after 14 days and not using them for any other purposes. But a CBP representative told the AP that in the future, these images might be stored and then perhaps used for other purposes.

None of this should come as a surprise. The government has been increasingly prone to profiling and tracking Americans as they travel, whether it's local police departments scanning license plates or the more than two dozen state departments of motor vehicles that add driver's license photos to facial recognition databases.

We've already seen some of the ways this can be abused. Cities are sending threatening letters to car owners just for being parked in areas where prostitution is commonplace. New York City is implementing facial recognition software into its cashless toll road program in order to try to catch people who skip out on paying.

There is absolutely no reason to trust that this program will never be more than a way to monitor the comings and goings of foreign travelers. Instead, Americans may find themselves in a permanent virtual police lineup.

NEXT: Damning New Report Shows How Oakland Cops Covered Up Their Sexual Exploitation of a Minor

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  1. Solution: arrange to have an allergic reaction to something immediately before departing for the airport.

    1. That would be easy for me. I would just have to drive by your house.

      1. Crusty suddenly in demand, seeks bids on cloning.

        1. That’s why we should also scan their devices and obtain a complete list of any pseudonyms they’ve been using. Anyone who won’t agree, no travel and placed on a watch list. That could help us weed out some of them there Twitter “satirists” and get the indictments we need to make our nation great again. Surely no one here would dare to defend the “First Amendment dissent” of a single, isolated judge in America’s leading criminal “parody” case? See the documentation at:


      2. You’re allergic to class, huh?

        1. Cat obedience class. I just can’t stand to see you waste your life like that.

    2. My already crippling allergies have evolved to add a neat eye swelling that makes it look like I a fist fight and now I’m sitting around crying about it.

        1. *starts to actually cry*

          1. [hugs Half-Virtue]

      1. severe response to light too? like, looking at the monitor above 0% brightness feels like someone jabbed a finger in your eye and left it there? claritin worked on mine pretty quick.

  2. RealID already forces you to carry photo identification that is databased and optimized for facial recognition in order to fly, either domestically or internationally. Of course Reason couldn’t be bothered to cover that when there was all that delicious chocolatey Obama cock to suck on for 8 years.

    1. Of course Reason couldn’t be bothered to cover that


    2. In the time it took you to write this silly nonsense you could have actually plugged “real ID” into our search engine and discovered that’s actually not true.

      But that would assume you actually had any interest in honesty, which is clearly not the case.

      1. Sorry, Obama’s cock is so delicious and chocolatey that it sometimes overrides our ability to Reason.

        1. The data supports this.

      2. But Scott!!! Honesty is his first name. Isn’t that what the “h” stands for?!?

      3. I don’t want to sound conspiratorial, but I honestly wonder sometimes if some of these trolls are someone’s paid instigators. Lazy dishonesty has always been a facet of any internet commentary, but it’s reached absolutely insane levels lately. Not accusing anyone in particular, mind, just floating the possibility.

        1. if some of these trolls are someone’s paid instigators.

          “someone’s”…. who is Reason’s arch nemesis?

          1. who is Reason’s arch nemesis?


            1. The Finnish chocolate bar? I really want to know the story behind that.

              1. It tried to claim it was more chocolatey and delicious than Obama’s cock. Reason could not let that slight stand.

                1. It puts the lotion on the skin…

        2. I think the levels have been similar for several years now, but the proportion of comments made up of suck idiocy has definitely increased.

          1. I think the idiot post count is about the same, but the count of off-setting rational and interesting comments has decreased. I’ll admit I miss R.C. Dean’s commentary on ACA posts.

            1. You know who else decreased rational comments?

      4. Scott, you’ve been trolled. I know the general level of retardation in these comments makes it harder to detect, so don’t be too hard on yourself about it.

        1. It’s called Poe’s Law, not Poe’s Suggestion.

          1. I seem to recall seeing this same troll show up and spout similar retardation before, so I’m not sure if it’s parody or not.

    3. Maybe that’s because George W. Bush was president back in 2005 when it was passed. And Reason has criticized the act plenty over the years. But I know, researching basic facts before spouting off iz 4 faggitz and cuckz. Idiot.

    4. Of course, lets also ignore that all of us probably have a photo ID in our pockets right now at this very moment. Who issued that photo ID? The State you live in? I’m sure the FedGov can’t get to that information, right? RIGHT?!?

      1. I know Washington State now applies face recognition tech to all driving license photos. WHen it was my turn to snarl at the camera, I deliberately feigned a crick in my neck and a lopsided face, low hanging brow on the opposite side. I put that mug ugly on before I approached the window. They ‘invited” me to smile, but I declined…… twisted faces don’t work well with FR software. Especially if ya do’nt twist it when ye’re out and about.

  3. papieren bitte for everyone regardless of citizenship is what border enforcement looks like.

    1. That’s certainly been true for quite some time.

    2. Regardless of citizenship?

      Well, unless you have “papieren”, it’s kinda hard to establish citizenship, what with Americans coming in all colors and accents and ancestries, right?

      1. Trust me when someone has a ticket on an airliner, they KNOW your citizenship. This is just one more layer of dark coloured bull exhaust.

  4. >>> “Because crossing the border is considered voluntary…

    we’ll do whatever the fuck we want. Try and get out. Love, Gov.”

  5. It’s like the heads of DHS got high as a kite, binge-watched every season of Person of Interest, and thought “Holy shit, what a great idea!”

    Turns on Jonathan Nolan is the true prophet of our times, who knew?

  6. “Because crossing the border is considered voluntary, travelers are subject to the laws and rules enforced by” Customs and Border Protection (CBP).

    If this will help keep out the brown hordes, I am okay with it.

    But a CBP representative told the AP that in the future, these images might be stored and then perhaps used for other

    I trust them.

    1. Yeah it’s pretty scary how the government has decided that ‘voluntary’ means ‘we can do what the hell we want’.

      Recall that going to a sporting event at a stadium is ‘voluntary’ so they can search you without a warrant or probable cause if they want. Reading the constitution, it would seem this is blatantly illegal and unconstitutional but hey living document positive rights blah blah blah.

      1. You just hit on the reason they pull this garbage on us: THEY HAVE NOT READ THAT CONSTITUTION.

      2. Walking down the street in town is also voluntary, but that activity does not give them the right to take away MY rights.
        The inspections at the sports stadia is a major part of why I refuse to go to them. Although seems the inspections only happen at the “big league” events. Went to a small time footie match at one of the big stadia some time ago, rode with a friend who picked me up downtown. Don’t think he knew it, but I was packing….. no checkpoints. I carried through the whole match. He asked if I wanted to stop by a pub on the way, but, knowing I can’t carry inside one in my state, I said “ah, no, not tonight”. Still don’t think he ever figured out what I had tucked inside my belt.

    2. but this is for anyone trying to ESCAPE, not break in. So it won’t affect the brown hordes at all. Only we who belong here.

  7. Whatever it takes to win the war on terror and drugs.

    1. Don’t forget sex slaves!

  8. OT, sort of: I just filed a comment with the FCC regarding getting rid of those sorry and unimplemented Obama net neutrality rules. A bunch of SJW tech sites (Ars Technica, …) have been begging their readers to try to stop not implementing the Obama rules. They kindly provide the URL) so I took the time to say Go For It, dump that shit, the internet’s been working fine for years without government oversight, why start now?.

    1. I saw today someone say that getting rid of Net Neutrality means we will be back to dial up. I’m pretty sure they were joking to some extent, but I still feel like people don’t remember that all this regulation wasn’t here until a few years ago. Yet we survived.

      Also, I sure as shit don’t trust something just because the big tech companies are campaigning for it. I don’t get why with so many people, many of whom are staunchly anti big business, turn a blind eye to tech companies. They have their own motives just like any else.

      1. I don’t think very many people have any idea what Net Neutrality even is. It just sounds like the right thing.

        1. I”m against a neutral net, I want it to be for something!

          1. I”m against a neutral net, I want it to be for something!

            Or against something. Either way, just as long as I know where the net stands.

            1. #voteAquaNet and 80s hair

      2. And none of the regulation even went into effect, did it? Granted, there was the expectation that it will go into effect, which influences how firms behave, but it’s not as if we’ve been living with a “Net Neutrality Internet” for years now.

        1. Correct, it never went into effect. All this yakking about rolling back the internet is just so much drivel.

          It has the side benefit of making it obvious these clowns don’t have a clue what they are talking about. I’ve pointed it out to a few and they just stop talking, like their parachute suddenly released itself. Very gratifying.

          1. Correct, it never went into effect. All this yakking about rolling back the internet is just so much drivel.

            Especially considering that almost literally out of the other side of their mouths, they will advocate the right to be forgotten and banning hate speech on the internet.

          2. Same. There was that other regulation about ISPs and browser history that was repealed in the spring, and I kept pointing out that nothing was being “rolled back” and we are not “returning” to some dark age, as the regulation never went into effect. You never get a good response because there is no good response.

            1. but those stupid tyranny laws need to be “rolled back” BEFORE they are set to take effect. Because if they DO go into effect, we will be worse off. Rolling them back now means things stay as they are and have been, which has worked just fine.

      3. People are becoming more and more of technocratic utilitarianists, and they don’t really give a fuck what that means for our rights because it’s ‘more efficient’ and ‘convenient’ not to need to worry about those.

  9. Problem: small-minded, shitty tyrants promulgate small-minded, shitty tyranny.

    Solution: FUCK YEAH

    1. “Classier than Kamala” should be one of is campaign slogans.

      Also, if he promises to never create music again, he would have my vote.

    2. I hope his campaign heavily features Sweet Home Alabama even though he is from Detroit.

      1. I don’t see how you can blame anyone but Neil Young.

    3. Senate, baby! With the top flipped back and the sunshine shinin’

      1. He ain’t straight outta Congress, he’s straight outta tha traila!

    4. Now get in the pit and try to love someone!

  10. Doesn’t the government already have a “face scan” of every international traveler called a passport photo?

    1. No, a face scan, if it’s what I think their referring to, is a more data dense scan. With a picture you have pixels and such, each of which is probably an 8-bit vector of data. These face scans can store higher dimensional data, which aid in the facial recognition task.

      1. So a higher resolution photo, basically. Why is this more concerning than requiring papers and photo ID for travel?

    2. Yeah and the government used to equip its army with muskets; things advance.

      1. Now it equips its airports with full body under-the-clothes X-Ray scanners called Rapiscan. But that face scan tho…

  11. How does this compare to other countries, by the way? I’ve heard many people say it is much worse traveling here then elsewhere, but that also seems to often be people traveling between EU countries, so that could be very different.

    If I wanted to travel to Britain, or Japan, or China or something how onerous is it to me compared to coming into the US? (I’ve never traveled internationally so I have no idea.)

    1. If I wanted to travel to Britain, or Japan, or China or something how onerous is it to me compared to coming into the US?

      I have found it easier getting in to both Great Britain and China than back in to the United States. When I flew out of Hong Kong a few years ago there was a second bag search to get on to the plane to San Francisco. Fortunately somebody not paying attention in San Francisco pointed me in the wrong direction and I skipped Immigrations altogether.

      No matter what country the border patrol agents are firmly convinced they are the only thing standing between their country’s sovereignty and total collapse.

      1. That’s been my experience going to Europe, Britain and Hong Kong (but those are probably the easiest places for Americans to travel to). You get off the plane, get your passport stamped and walk out through the “nothing to declare” door. Coming back to the US tends to involve extra security checks and waiting in long lines for customs and immigration on arrival. Now, with the electronic customs kiosks that take your picture, you get to wait in two redundant lines to get through.

        1. Some of those electronic kiosks overseas are really nice for convenience. Most are only for EU passports. Some are mixed and some places have a set for EU passports and another set for non-EU. Those last ones are awesome because the line is almost always empty and you can just breeze through.

          The kiosks in the US can suck. Wait in line to get to it and then wait in line after to get to the officer. I’ve found that telling the kiosk that you have something to declare will work to your benefit. If you do that, they send you to an alternate version of the second line. It is almost always shorter. Then, just tell the officer that you’ve got a pack of English/German/whatever cigarettes and you weren’t sure if you had to declare. Then he just waves you through.

        2. Canada has been getting kinda pissy lately.

    2. I can’t speak for foreigners coming to the US. But, I travel overseas from the US pretty regularly (mostly Europe; also some other countries that are generally friendly towards US; can’t speak for a place like China). To me it is only minimally more onerous than travelling within the US. Upon arrival, fill out some stupid form and wait in line for customs. Get to the front of the line and tell the officer that you’re there for two weeks for business; maybe answer a questions about what kind of business. That’s pretty much it. Re-entering US is pretty much the same. To me, the only real hassle is the line for customs. Depending on when you get off your plane (first or last) and whether other planes have landed just before you, the line could be pretty short or it could take an hour.

      I’m from ATL. Departing is great because security lines at Int’l terminal are much shorter than regular one. Arrival can suck if a couple of big planes landed just before you. Sometimes it’s not bad. So far, no one has ever asked to search my laptop or anything like that. I’m really not sure how i would handle that.

    3. Security at those foreign airports can be an even bigger mixed bag than in the US. In some countries, domestic flights have almost none. It’s like flying in the US pre-9/11. Most of Europe is pretty consistent with the US approach. Not horrible, just slow. Usually, the procedures are pretty inconsistent from trip to trip: shoes-on/-off, electronics that you have to take out, how they deal with your toiletries.

      I fly through AMS a lot and I’ve found that I just can’t win with security. It’s 2017 and I have lots of electronics. So, I pull out laptop and put it in a separate tray. Then get sent to another line for additional screening where they find the Kindle. Next time I pull out laptop and kindle, but they choose to look at ipod. Next time, it’s the battery pack. Then laptop power cord. Then phone charger. On and on. If I remove everything remotely related to electronics, then it fills a whole bin. Or, that’s the time that they decide that my stick of deodorant counts as a liquid.

    4. The only country I’ve been too that is noticeably more intrusive than the US is Israel. The security screening there is very intensive. Personal interviews that last 10+ minutes with every traveler.

  12. I’ve had to do this for at least the past couple years flying into the states from Canada (I’m a US citizen) and was super pissed off the first time. Even more pissed off the second time, since I was flying solo and could in theory fast track a bit of the process. But I didn’t have to when I flew directly into the states and didn’t have to go through a larger Canadian airport (basically fuck Toronto Pearson for every single reason that an airport exists). I don’t think anyone quite knows what the rules are or what’s going on, they’re just collecting all the data they can just in case. I have no confidence of any of this being stored correctly or deleted at any point. No confidence in unauthorized people not being able to access it. But what can I do? I want to make my flight and get on with my life.

    1. basically fuck Toronto Pearson

      I don’t want to make this weird but my nickname in college was “Toronto Pearson.”

      But seriously, the lesson here is to never go to Canada.

    2. It’s the hardest part about these kind of things. Introduce small inconveniences, and people will put up with it. Ultimately, the government shouldn’t be important and we don’t want to think about it. We have lives that we need to live.

      Unfortunately, government continues to force its own importance down our throats. So thank god for the rare curmudgeon who has nothing better to do than call bullshit.

      1. Find out just what any people will quietly submit to and you have found out the exact measure of injustice and wrong which will be imposed upon them, and these will continue till they are resisted with either words or blows, or with both. The limits of tyrants are prescribed by the endurance of those whom they oppress

        …Frederick Douglass

    3. I can second that. I was recently in Toronto and you don’t have a choice. They takes yours picture and that’s that.

  13. I will never voluntarily give a digital image of my face.

    If an involuntary program is implemented, I will drive outside the USA to then fly internationally. Other options are fly to a US city near Canada and drive to a Canadian airport to fly internationally, wear makeup an fake mustaches all the time, or just not fly ever again.

    This war on Americans will end one way or the other.

    1. I will never voluntarily give a digital image of my face.

      So you don’t have a drivers license? Interesting…

      1. It’s from Florida, where you can get your DL photo in a full burqua.

      2. I already have to show my photo ID to get my damn tickets. There’s no reason except fytw to require this. Or the Rapescan either.

  14. Don’t blame this on President Donald Trump’s anti-immigration fearmongering.

    Awww, come on, Scott. You’re no fun anymore.

    1. Since when does a Reason commenter listen to a Reason writer?

      What happened to you, Zeb?

      1. You know what happened to Zeb.

        1. Zeb’s dead baby, Zeb’s dead.

          *Rev’s choppers engine*

    2. That was actually just a misdirection from Reason’s mission to blame Trump and Republicans for everything and suck up to the Democrats. Don’t be fooled.

      1. Yes. Shackille is just running the Reason hive-mind’s false flag op on this.

  15. speech is often voluntary, but that doesn’t mean the government can regulate it

    Let’s not give them any ideas.

    1. Go onto any college campus and yell real loud “Hey baby, let’s do it!”
      Learn about regulation, you will.

  16. RE: DHS to American Citizens: Let Us Scan Your Faces, or No International Travel
    Another nugget of privacy threatened in the name of national security.

    It makes me wonder what other body part they will want to scan next.

    1. I already travel with a stack of 8″ x 11″ glossies of my junk, just in case.

  17. Poor lady in the Reason photo who now has her face scan all over the internet.

  18. Who says the terrorists haven’t already won?

    1. That’s the punch line that everyone seems to be missing; the terrorists aren’t running around in some cave 5k mile away. They’re here on our soil, running around shitting tyranny in every aspect of our lives. All the while armed to the teeth with modern weapons of war straight out of the desert. Elected by no one. Answerable to almost no one. This is our future. Welcome to Mr. Orwell’s nightmare.

  19. If I can arbitrarily choose what gender I am, I should be able to arbitrarily choose which body part I designate as my face.

    1. now THERE is an interesting concept.

      They defend the right of the mozzie women to wea r that big sack with the eyeslits. Why can’t I decide the slit should be somewhere else?

  20. ‘That logic may not exactly hold up to close scrutiny?speech is often voluntary, but that doesn’t mean the government can regulate it?but the report rolls with it, arguing that the government’s right to inspect travelers extends to biometric scans:’ ….

    Free speech is protected under the 1st Amendment. Biometric scans have no such protection. In fact, we already perform the same with passport photos, drivers licenses, fingerprints for DMV, etc. don’t we?

    Even for me, as someone who values his privacy, I honestly don’t see the big deal here. I’m trying to figure out how this is harmful..and I see nothing. Silly scare article.

    1. “Even for me, as someone who values his privacy, I honestly don’t see the big deal here. I’m trying to figure out how this is harmful..and I see nothing. Silly scare article.’

      Just because other governments already do it, doesn’t make it ok. At the least, I see this as another hoop to jump through for the freedom of movement that is supposed to be unimpeded. Which doesn’t seem to onerous until you take into account all of the other loops they’ve got lined up in their circus.

      What bothers me the most bout this, is that it continues to enforce the narrative that the government has the right to scrutinize me as routine. I think this is a violation of the 4th.

      “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause…”

      1. Constitution? We don’t got no stinkin’ constitution. We don’t need no stinkin’ constitution.

        (Sorry Bogey, I couldn’t stop)

  21. Border Patrol do not have authority to monitor or regulate our LEAVING. ONly our getting back in.

    WHO do these clowns think they are? WHAT is their “compelling interest”?

    And WHO gets the contract for all the equipment to take the images, then to process and store them? Sounds a lot like the scam where, once all those full body scanners were built and sitting in a warehouse, someone magically tried to light off their undies on an airplane. Or was it the shoe guy? Either way, a false flag setup triggered the deployment of those body scanners almost overnight. Seems I recall some “famous person” “happened” to be a stakeholder in the company that designed/built those scanners, and made quite the haul once they were deployed.

    FOr this photo scam: cui bono?

  22. Does anyone else see the contrast between wanting to scan we Yanks as we leave on our European vacation, and fighting tooth and nail to PREVENT the present administration from examing the backgrounds and histories of “refugees” coming from nations known to be loaded with active terrorists and culture jihadists intent upon destroying us as a nation and taking us over?

  23. How about DHS publishing the complete contact information (with face shots) of each and every DHS agent/employee first?
    If you’re doing nothing wrong, what would you have to be afraid of?

  24. Simple. Stay in the USA. And join a militia that does not issue ID cards.
    Stay out of airports, court houses, state buildings, federal buildings, state parks, federal parks, banks, retail outlets, don’t drive, and the man will get you anyway. Resistance is futile.

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