Trump Administration fast-tracks compulsory border facial recognition scans for all US citizens

Homeland Security also clamping down on H1-B visas

The Trump Administration is planning to fast-track a new policy of compulsory facial recognition at the border, and including US citizens and permanent residents in its plans for the first time.

The move is outlined in a newly released list [PDF] of regulatory priorities for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and also includes a plan to restrict the use and availability of H1-B work visas, which are extensively used by tech companies to bring in overseas workers.

The facial recognition plan is likely to prove controversial given widespread concerns over its accuracy and impact on personal privacy. A number of US cities, including San Francisco, have banned the technology and more, including Portland, Oregon are considering bans.

But under the title “Collection of Biometric Data from Aliens Upon Entry to and Departure from the United States,” the DHS says that one of its priorities will be to “provide the legal framework for DHS to begin a seamless biometric entry-exit system” and remove current restrictions on pilot programs it has been running at 15 different airports and seaports to cover all entry points into the US.

Border cops are notably keen on facial-recognition and in October sent a request-for-information document to equipment makers asking for advice on how to add it to body cameras worn by agents.

Citizens too

Although the DHS document references “aliens” in its document - meaning foreigners who are neither US citizens nor permanent residents - that looks likely to change.

"To facilitate the implementation of a seamless biometric entry-exit system that uses facial recognition and to help prevent persons attempting to fraudulently use US travel documents and identify criminals and known or suspected terrorists, DHS is proposing to amend the regulations to provide that all travelers, including US citizens, may be required to be photographed upon entry and/or departure," another recent DHS filing reads.

This will likely result in a constitutional challenge under the Fourth Amendment if the DHS does press forward with plans to make the pilot programs permanent. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has already signaled its intent to sue if that happens.

“Travelers, including US citizens, should not have to submit to invasive biometric scans simply as a condition of exercising their constitutional right to travel,” said its senior policy analyst Jay Stanley in a statement.

As well as expanding the program to all entry points, the DHS will also push to have facial recognition and fingerprinting as a condition of exiting the US as well as entering it, potentially leading to even longer security queues.

Proposed regulation will likely to be issued in July, according to reports, alongside other measures designed to track people. An estimated 45 per cent of those in the country illegally enter the country under a legal visa and stay beyond its expiration.

Work visa

Talking of visas, the DHS regulatory priorities also target the H1-B work visa which is used to allow those in “specialty occupations” to enter the US. The visa is commonly used by tech companies, especially in California, to recruit people from abroad and have their work at their US headquarters; it has also become part of Trump's anti-immigrant rhetoric and a direct challenge to Silicon Valley giants.


Uncle Sam wants to read your tweets, check out your Instagram, log your email addresses before you enter the Land of the Free on a visa


Under the DHS proposals, not only will the definition of “specialty occupation” be “revised” but so will the definition of “employment and employer-employee relationship.” The changes will “help better protect US workers and wages,” the document states.

There are a range of other proposed changes to the immigration system, many of them imposing additional fees on the individual. Individual processing fees are a remedy frequently imposed in an effort to limit applications and fund the process but critics - including the government of India - argue that it only serves to exclude people from poorer, non-Western nations while failing to address endemic problems and inconsistencies within the immigration process.

Typically regulatory changes have to go through a review and public comment process but the Trump Administration has indicated that it will put the facial recognition program through a fast-track process; an approach which has further alarmed privacy advocates. ®

Similar topics

Other stories you might like

  • How ICE became a $2.8b domestic surveillance agency
    Your US tax dollars at work

    The US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency has spent about $2.8 billion over the past 14 years on a massive surveillance "dragnet" that uses big data and facial-recognition technology to secretly spy on most Americans, according to a report from Georgetown Law's Center on Privacy and Technology.

    The research took two years and included "hundreds" of Freedom of Information Act requests, along with reviews of ICE's contracting and procurement records. It details how ICE surveillance spending jumped from about $71 million annually in 2008 to about $388 million per year as of 2021. The network it has purchased with this $2.8 billion means that "ICE now operates as a domestic surveillance agency" and its methods cross "legal and ethical lines," the report concludes.

    ICE did not respond to The Register's request for comment.

    Continue reading
  • Fully automated AI networks less than 5 years away, reckons Juniper CEO
    You robot kids, get off my LAN

    AI will completely automate the network within five years, Juniper CEO Rami Rahim boasted during the company’s Global Summit this week.

    “I truly believe that just as there is this need today for a self-driving automobile, the future is around a self-driving network where humans literally have to do nothing,” he said. “It's probably weird for people to hear the CEO of a networking company say that… but that's exactly what we should be wishing for.”

    Rahim believes AI-driven automation is the latest phase in computer networking’s evolution, which began with the rise of TCP/IP and the internet, was accelerated by faster and more efficient silicon, and then made manageable by advances in software.

    Continue reading
  • Pictured: Sagittarius A*, the supermassive black hole at the center of the Milky Way
    We speak to scientists involved in historic first snap – and no, this isn't the M87*

    Astronomers have captured a clear image of the gigantic supermassive black hole at the center of our galaxy for the first time.

    Sagittarius A*, or Sgr A* for short, is 27,000 light-years from Earth. Scientists knew for a while there was a mysterious object in the constellation of Sagittarius emitting strong radio waves, though it wasn't really discovered until the 1970s. Although astronomers managed to characterize some of the object's properties, experts weren't quite sure what exactly they were looking at.

    Years later, in 2020, the Nobel Prize in physics was awarded to a pair of scientists, who mathematically proved the object must be a supermassive black hole. Now, their work has been experimentally verified in the form of the first-ever snap of Sgr A*, captured by more than 300 researchers working across 80 institutions in the Event Horizon Telescope Collaboration. 

    Continue reading
  • Shopping for malware: $260 gets you a password stealer. $90 for a crypto-miner...
    We take a look at low, low subscription prices – not that we want to give anyone any ideas

    A Tor-hidden website dubbed the Eternity Project is offering a toolkit of malware, including ransomware, worms, and – coming soon – distributed denial-of-service programs, at low prices.

    According to researchers at cyber-intelligence outfit Cyble, the Eternity site's operators also have a channel on Telegram, where they provide videos detailing features and functions of the Windows malware. Once bought, it's up to the buyer how victims' computers are infected; we'll leave that to your imagination.

    The Telegram channel has about 500 subscribers, Team Cyble documented this week. Once someone decides to purchase of one or more of Eternity's malware components, they have the option to customize the final binary executable for whatever crimes they want to commit.

    Continue reading
  • Ukrainian crook jailed in US for selling thousands of stolen login credentials
    Touting info on 6,700 compromised systems will get you four years behind bars

    A Ukrainian man has been sentenced to four years in a US federal prison for selling on a dark-web marketplace stolen login credentials for more than 6,700 compromised servers.

    Glib Oleksandr Ivanov-Tolpintsev, 28, was arrested by Polish authorities in Korczowa, Poland, on October 3, 2020, and extradited to America. He pleaded guilty on February 22, and was sentenced on Thursday in a Florida federal district court. The court also ordered Ivanov-Tolpintsev, of Chernivtsi, Ukraine, to forfeit his ill-gotten gains of $82,648 from the credential theft scheme.

    The prosecution's documents [PDF] detail an unnamed, dark-web marketplace on which usernames and passwords along with personal data, including more than 330,000 dates of birth and social security numbers belonging to US residents, were bought and sold illegally.

    Continue reading

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2022