Jennifer Lee of the ACLU of Washington State delivered a letter co-signed by a coalition of organizations including the Identity Project urging the Port Commission not to authorize, pay for, or participate in any use of facial recognition to identify travelers:
On December 10, 2019, the Commission adopted seven principles to guide its decision-making on if and how biometrics should be used at the Port. These principles are: justified, voluntary, private, equitable, transparent, legal, and ethical.
We do not believe that either the current or the proposed uses of biometrics to identify travelers on Port property can be implemented in a manner consistent with these principles. Port staff state that its recommendations “are not meant to suggest that the Port should implement public-facing biometrics, but rather how to do so in alignment with our guiding principles.” The only action that would be aligned with those principles would be to ban the use of facial recognition technology to identify members of the public by the Port, as well as by the Port’s tenants and contractors….
1. We urge the Port of Seattle Commission to reject participation in, and funding of, CBP’s facial recognition exit and entry programs….
2. We urge the Port of Seattle Commission to prohibit use of facial recognition technology by private entities.
The Port of Seattle should prohibit business tenants such as airlines from integrating with CBP’s Traveler Verification Service (TVS) — the agency’s “Identity as a Service” biometrics system…. When Port tenants integrate with CBP’s TVS architecture, it is impossible to separate “private” or non-federal surveillance from federal government surveillance of travelers. Travelers may think that they are having their photo taken at a self-service kiosk solely for use by the airport or airline. But in reality, that photo will also be shared with DHS and CBP.
The Port, airlines, and contractors should not obscure the role of DHS and CBP by collecting facial images on their behalf. The Privacy Act, as discussed further below, requires that if an individual’s personal information is to be used by a federal agency, it must be collected by that agency directly from that individual. The best way to provide travelers with clear notice that facial images are being passed on to DHS is to require that any such images be collected by identifiable, uniformed DHS staff, using DHS equipment, at DHS’s expense.
The Port meeting also heard from the office of Rep. Pramila Jayapal, who represents the city of Seattle and environs (although not Sea-Tac Airport) in Congress. Noting the concerns that led her to introduce a bill in Congress that would “place a prohibition on the domestic use of facial recognition technology by federal entities, which can only be lifted with an act of Congress,” Rep. Jayapal suggested that the Port Commission “consider a moratorium on the use of biometrics technology in all Port activities under its purview.”