back to article Guess who's dreaming of facial-recog body cams now? US border cops: AI tech sought to scrutinize travelers

America's border cops are considering adding facial-recognition technology to body cameras worn by agents. In a request-for-information document [PDF] – sent to equipment makers, and obtained by The Register on Thursday – the US government's Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) stated it wanted to “obtain information and, or …

  1. Danny 2 Silver badge

    Fifteen years ago I grew a long beard and wore a pakol (pashtun hat) because I thought it was funny how much I looked like Osama Bin Laden. I had to lose the hat and beard because it became scary how much everyone else agreed. It might have worked at a fancy dress party but I was protesting outside military bases at the time and it was not a good look around armed police. I mean, people make money acting as celebrity look-alikes but my doppelganger was unfortunate.

    I'll be avoiding the USA now this software is being deployed.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "I'll be avoiding the USA now this software is being deployed."

      Normally this old chestnut is trotted out by people who never have and never will travel to the US anyway.

      1. KBeee Silver badge

        Not really. If you have a choice of where you travel to as opposed being forced by work, I know several people who no longer visit the US. I had some terrific holidays over the years in Seattle, San Fransisco, Columbus, Hawaii, New York. But I knocked my visits on the head when fingerprints for all visitors were introduced. Plenty of other places in the world to visit and spend my hard earned.

      2. macjules Silver badge

        Well I trot out that argument all the time but I do visit the USA on a monthly basis. Why? Well I live (mostly) in London which makes the USA's arguments against AFR look pathetic, given that in one street (Whitehall) we have so many surveillance cameras that they are running out of places to mount them.

      3. Andrew Moore

        between 1985 and 2000 I visited the states over 30 times, both for business and pleasure. But after Bush's election and 9/11 I haven't been back since. Visited Canada a few times since then though.

  2. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge


    When you go through US immigration - even if you have the special "I can afford $100 to prove I'm not a terrorist" card - you have to spend 5mins staring into the little green light trying to get it to take your picture(*) .

    So what is a webcam on the fat gut of your average DHS officer behind a counter going to record exactly ?

    * if you make a system with a camera at eye level for a 6 footer don't put messages on a screen at waist level telling you what to do....

    1. Danny 2 Silver badge

      Re: Erm....

      Please tell me more about these "I can afford $100 to prove I'm not a terrorist" cards.

      I went to the consulate to get a visa in '85, a lifetime visa which was a rip-off since the passport had a shorter life than mine, and we had to fill out a form saying we weren't terrorists, communists or Nazis, and that none of our family were either.

      Boiling hot day, packed tiny room, and the wee old woman in front of me hadn't filled out her form so the clerk had to shout the questions at her. "Eh, no son, I'm not a terrorist."

      Turns out though that her dead husband had been a communist, a trade union activist from Ayr in the 1930s. "People used to come around when they had a problem, and he'd sort it. Please son, I just want to visit my daughter, I'm not a communist myself. I always left the room when they talked politics."

      It made the experience fun, and to their credit the US of A permitted her entry.

      1. martinusher Silver badge

        Re: Erm....

        >Please tell me more about these "I can afford $100 to prove I'm not a terrorist" cards.

        Its called "Global Entry" and as you're obviously not a citizen you'll only notice the ads for it when you arrive at an airport as you're being herded towards the CBP checkpoint. Last time I came in there was also a poster advertising a phone application that seemed to do the same job as those entry kiosks. I'll have to look into this, from looking at another traveler it looks like you might get a QR code that can be scanned like your boarding pass code. (Heaven help you if your phone battery dies.....)

        Facial recognition is used all over the place these days. Extending it to portable devices like body cameras is a logical next step. Expecting anything different is fantasy -- surely you don't think that the layout of an airport is set up merely to afford you exercise? You're being scanned, tagged, logged and generally scrutinized from the moment you bought your ticket.

        1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

          Re: Erm....

          Paying money to skip to the front of the line of the peasants is the most fundamentally American thing you you can do so the card proves your are a true patriot.

          it's also available to Canadian's but we feel guilty about using it.

          1. Mike 16 Silver badge

            Other advantages

            "skip the line" cards are also useful to sleeper terrorists. All they have to do is note when their card is rejected, indicating that their "affiliations" have been noted.

            As for facial recognition, a friend's uncle reported to work at a (allied) shipyard during WWII with a photo of Hitler spliced into his badge. Guards just waved him through. Never met him so I don't know how much he resembled the chancellor, but I'd have to wonder if anybody told him to shave. Yeah, robots won't be so lazy, maybe, and of course the lowest-bidder software will never be compromised.

          2. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

            Re: Erm....

            it's also available to Canadian's but we feel guilty

            ..about being jumped on by a Feral Apostrophe?

      2. IceC0ld

        Re: Erm....

        I went to the consulate to get a visa in '85, a lifetime visa which was a rip-off since the passport had a shorter life than mine, and we had to fill out a form saying we weren't terrorists, communists or Nazis

        due to recent 'alterations' to the US and their outlook, I can see that list getting a touch shorter in future :o(

      3. Anonymous Coward

        Re: Erm....

        Please tell me more about these "I can afford $100 to prove I'm not a terrorist" cards.

        I assume these are the Global Entry (or NEXUS for the northern cousins) cards. Very much worth the money if you happen to cross any US border with any regularity at all. They let you bypass the general immigration queue; you are also exempted from filling the stupid little customs form (you do get the same questions at the entry terminal, though); in many - but not all - airports you also get to use an express security queue. All-in-all, it usually lets you cut down the time you need to clear the US customs and immigration to under 15 minutes. When I was still travelling to the US, I was routinely able to catch 45-minute domestic connexions at La Guardia when arriving on an international flight, which would have been quite out of the question otherwise.

        Besides the cost, the downside is that you have to undergo the equivalent of a low-grade background check when you enroll. It's nothing major - the full set of fingerprints, retinal scan (at least if you apply through NEXUS), couple of pages of questions, basic security/reliability check, and a personal interview - but it does take time, and it can be a little disconcerting if you've never done it before.

        Now that I can no longer get the card (technically, I am still eligible, but the nearest enrollment center, which I would need to attend in person, is a 7-hour flight away), I've decided that the undeniable pleasure of vising the US is no longer worth the hassle and the occasional humiliation of crossing that border in the general queue. Hopefully, things will improve again before I get too old to travel for pleasure - but I am not holding my breath.

  3. Mark192

    Can't wait for this

    If it works sufficiently un-badly to be used, this will give rich and middle class people a taste of what it's like for youths on the bottom rungs.

    Imagine their indignation at being constantly taken aside and 'treated as a criminal' as the officer asertains that their real identity is not fake as the system flags yet another false - positive with 99% certainty.

    I assume people will still let this sort of nonsense happen... "if you've got nothing to hide you won't mind a 10 minute interrogation"

    1. Mike 16 Silver badge

      Re: Can't wait for this

      --- Imagine their indignation at being constantly taken aside and 'treated as a criminal' ---

      Well, I was amused and a bit peeved when pulled aside for extra vetting at a major amusement park, twice in one day, when attending with one of my children who was an employee of the park owner.

      I think the middle class is already pretty familiar with the type, if not the degree, of hassle the Powers That Be can unleash at will.

  4. Mark192

    Nervous about this

    As someone with a distinctive face (large oddly shaped nose, eyes very close together, strong jaw) I'm unlikely to get flagged often as a false positive but, if some dodgy crim does share my features I'll be a very strong match as relatively few on the database will share my features.

    This will be more of a problem for minorities - very distinctive compared to the bulk of the population so false matches will have a higher confidence value attached.

  5. Mark192

    Dazzle patterns

    I predict urban fashions for increasingly striking makeup fashions as people attempt to fool facial recognition systems.

    It'll be not only criminal-wannabees wearing them but also people fed up with being pulled aside due to false matches.

  6. chivo243 Silver badge

    anybody can see me coming

    due to sport injuries in my teen years, I have a unique gait. An ex-colleague I hadn't seen in years spotted me in a large crowded parking lot. It would be wasted tech using it on me...

    1. macjules Silver badge

      Re: anybody can see me coming

      Not going to much use in a facial recognition system I'm afraid. If it was an "unusual walk recognition system" then I am sure you would be unique.

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: anybody can see me coming

        "If it was an "unusual walk recognition system" then I am sure you would be unique."

        That exists too. An individuals gait is fairly distinctive. I'm sure ElReg did an article n it in the last year or so.

        1. Ken Moorhouse Silver badge

          Re: An individuals gait is fairly distinctive.

          Gait analysis appears to be a reliable way of convicting criminals. So if you're planning a bank heist, have a few drinks beforehand or wear shoes that modify your method of walking (Tip: stilettos would not be such a good idea if you need to exit the crime scene quickly).

          Which reminds me: I used to know a school-teacher: we used to pull his leg regarding his teaching abilities ("if you do something wrong: Rule #1 don't get caught") over an incident where two of his pupils got arrested for demanding the contents of a local Indian shop's cash till. One of the pupils was on crutches and the shopkeeper was easily able to chase after him before summoning the police.

  7. Pascal Monett Silver badge

    "facial recognition and facial comparison"

    Given that it has been largely proven that current facial recog tech has trouble recognizing people who are not of Caucasian complexion, and given that this is undoubtedly going to be deployed along the Mexican border, I can't wait for the inevitable tales of false positives and the outrage that will follow.

    Gotta to stock up on the popcorn now . . .

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: "facial recognition and facial comparison"

      >Mexican border, I can't wait for the inevitable tales of false positives

      You mean it recognising republican Texans as Mexican?

  8. Ochib

    Time to go back to the 80s and embrace the New Romantic movement once again

  9. Mephistro

    I request that...

    ... they add a few doughnuts to the suspects biometric database, just for the laughs.

  10. Winkypop Silver badge

    Build that wall !!!

    AROUND the USA.

    Keep them IN.

    1. Teiwaz

      Re: Build that wall !!!

      Keep them IN.

      I think the current thought of the Executive branch is to whittle out as many people as possible with the prospect of turning the U.S into the largest Golf Course Resort in the world.

      It's not a wall, it's an admission turnstyle.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The USA is off the menu

    At least until the Orange Buffoon departs.

    1. Ochib

      Re: The USA is off the menu

      Our orange buffoon, or theirs?

  12. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

    The All-Seeing Eye.

    Mind you, even Sauron might blanch from working with ICE. Some things even a really, really evil Maia won't stoop to!

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