US Government Plans to Take Mug Shots of All Departing Air Passengers By 2021

At the start of the Trump administration there was tremendous media attention over the travel ban for nationals of several countries, but I pointed out at the time one of the lesser-noticed provisions was expediting implementation of exit controls at the border. This wasn’t just about keeping people out, it was also about keeping them in.

A plan to tackle departure monitoring for visitors to the United States has been law for 23 years but hasn’t been implemented due to cost and physical practicality.

The Obama was working on a similar plan they hoped to implement by 2020.

DHS has been testing a biometric departure system at several airports.

  • The system matched photos of a passenger to someone else 0.03% of the time, and failed to match a passenger to the correct person 0.5% of the time which would mean problems for over half a million passengers a year.

  • Of course that’s only when the government’s systems work, in fact “frequent system disruptions hindered photo capture and automated data exchange” for 15% of passengers.

The plan has become more ambitious in fact a Department of Homeland Security report details the plan to require all departing passengers, including all citizens, to have photos (mug shots) taken when leaving the United States. (HT: Papers Please)

Furthermore they do not plan to stop at air travel, they plan to “incrementally deploy biometric capabilities across all modes of travel — air, sea, and land — by fiscal year 2025.”

DHS wants airlines and airports to pay for this. That’s being resisted, so DHS plans to offer airlines collecting data the ability keep that data and use it for other purposes.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. So DHS is basically selling our information? That’s exactly the wrong thing to do. Outside of being hacked, I really don’t care all that much about the government monitoring me, it’s private companies doing so that worries me.

  2. The government should be protecting citizens’ private information, not exploiting it. Unfortunately, Motor Vehicle Departments already sell data, perhaps other agencies as well.

  3. The US Post Office sells your data every time you change your address. There’s always a barrage of junk mail targeted at people moving.

  4. Sadly, my reaction is that I’m shocked they aren’t already doing this. USA is a lawless, tyrannical government. TSA/DHS serves no public purpose or good whatsoever.

  5. @Stella – I don’t like many elements of this, but it isn’t unique. Most countries in the world have exit controls.

  6. in China u need to have ur Pix taken to buy an Iphone!!
    we have a pix here in the US its our passport ???

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