U.S. Sen. Markey Urges DHS to Halt Use of Facial Recognition

News that a data breach has exposed the images of travelers and vehicles prompted U.S. Sen. Edward Markey, D-Mass., to call on the Department of Homeland Security to stop using the tech until better protections are in place.

by Marie Szaniszlo, Boston Herald / June 12, 2019
Sen. Ed Markey, D-Mass. (AP/Alex Brandon)

(TNS) — U.S. Sen. Edward Markey, D-Mass., on Tuesday called on the Department of Homeland Security to halt its use of facial recognition technology after the U.S. Customs and Border Protection confirmed that a recent data breach exposed images of travelers and vehicles.

The department and CBP did not respond to inquiries about when, where and how the breach occurred, and whether they are taking steps to ensure that it does not happen again.

But in a statement Tuesday, Markey (D-Mass.) said the breach “raises serious concerns about the Department of Homeland Security’s ability to effectively safeguard the sensitive information it is collecting.

“It only underscores the urgent need for the Department of Homeland Security to pause its deployment of facial recognition technology until it has instituted enforceable rules prioritizing cybersecurity and protecting travelers’ privacy,” Markey said.

“Malicious actors’ thirst for information about U.S. identities is unquenchable, and DHS must keep pace with emerging threats,” he added. “It should starts (sic) with formalizing guidelines for exactly who has access to the data DHS collects, how long this data will be maintained, how that information will be safeguarded and how we can say no to this collection in the first place.”

In December 2017 and May 2018, Markey and Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) called on DHS to halt the expansion of its biometric program until there were safeguards in place.

“The head of DHS promised this to both senators,” said Giselle Barry, a spokeswoman for Markey. “… but they have gone back on that personal promise.”

Kade Crockford, director of the Technology for Liberty Program at the ACLU of Massachusetts, said the breach underscores the need for both federal and state moratoriums on government use of the technology.

“Once your face is leaked in a data breach like this, it can be weaponized against you for the rest of your life,” Crockford said. “Increasingly, consumer-facing technology companies and even banks are using face recognition as an identifier to unlock private information. If the attackers can mock up a fake image of you based on these leaked data, they can impersonate you and potentially break into your private accounts. If your password is hacked in a data breach, you can change it. But you can’t change your face.”

©2019 the Boston Herald. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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