The Department of Homeland Security is collecting privacy concerns as critics fight to ban facial recognition outright.
The Department of Homeland Security is looking for feedback on new applications of artificial intelligence and facial recognition that the American public could encounter.
Kathleen Deloughery, a DHS Science and Technology Directorate program manager, told Nextgov that an Information Collection Request issued last week is part of a larger portfolio to gauge technology acceptance and adoption within national security.
“In order to ensure that you have a successful technology deployment, you have to understand the public’s perception of the risks and benefits of the new technology, especially in a setting where the public is interacting with the technology,” she said.
As DHS investigates the usage of AI and other biometric technologies, officials want to gauge public perceptions of biometrics to better implement them across various platforms.
The research discussed in the recent ICR will specifically look at AI facial recognition in several use cases or where the technology will be present, like airports or public buildings. DHS officials declined to specify what these technologies will do and where they are intended to be implemented.
Deloughery, however, did say that officials designing AI technology that will interact with the public will take survey responses into consideration in the development process, particularly concerns over privacy and civil liberties.
The department has previously worked to expand the scope of its public feedback on emerging technology it looks to deploy. Earlier this year, the agency administered a similar survey when it launched new shoe-scanning imaging technology to be deployed at TSA security checkpoints to gauge public awareness of the technology’s risks and benefits.
Deloughery said that this public feedback helped research teams deploy and develop the shoe scanner technologies, and that the new facial recognition technology is undergoing a similar process.
Despite the public outreach campaigns, concerns still exist surrounding individual privacy rights, especially regarding biometric technology and its data collection.
Caitlin Seeley George, a director at Fight for the Future, an internet privacy advocacy organization, said that the implementation of biometrics by DHS is quickly increasing in many public settings, especially since there aren’t policies in place to stop facial recognition from being used.
She also added that the department’s administration of surveys to capture an image of the nation’s awareness of biometrics may not be accurate.
“I think for departments like DHS, they want to gather this information, but I don’t actually believe that they care that much if people support or oppose the use of it, or how much they know about it."
Regardless of the outcome of the AI technology DHS is developing, George reiterated that her organization’s goal is to prohibit the use of facial recognition and other potentially invasive biometrics.
“Broadly speaking, we are definitely against DHS’s use of facial recognition and other AI technology to put people under surveillance,” she said. “There’s no way that they could use it that won’t be dangerous to the public at large.”
Given the skepticism surrounding facial recognition biometrics––which the DHS acknowledged in its ICR––officials will likely focus on the survey respondents’ attitudes toward privacy and personal surveillance.
“It’s really important that DHS be proactive in discussing with the public the technologies that we’re going to be using and in what scenarios so that we can address people’s concerns before they arise naturally,” Deloughery stated.