U.S. Sen. Edward Markey and Republican Sen. Mike Lee of Utah are asking the Department of Homeland Security for answers about a face scanning program currently in place at nine international airports in the United States, including Boston's Logan Airport.
In a letter to the department on Thursday, the senators raised concerns about people being wrongfully prevented from boarding under the biometric exit program.
The agency requires travelers, including U.S. citizens, departing on select international flights to submit to a face scan that is then compared to a biometric database for identity confirmation purposes.
"We are concerned that the use of the program on U.S. citizens remains facially unauthorized," the senators wrote in their letter to DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielson, noting Congress has voted to authorize face scanning of foreign nationals. "We request that DHS stop the expansion of this program and provide Congress with its explicit statutory authority to use and exp and a biometric exit program on U.S. citizens."
The senators asked DHS for information to address about accuracy concerns, flaws in scanning technology, and "how the program will not unduly burden travelers, including certain races or gender," according to Markey's office.
Markey planed a noon teleconference Thursday to discuss a Georgetown Law Center on Privacy & Technology report on the topic.
"It’s as if DHS has hired a billion-dollar bouncer to check IDs but never checked how good he is at spotting a fake," Laura Moy, deputy director of the Georgetown center and co-author of the report, said in a statement. "They also don’t know if he’s biased against certain groups of people. These questions are mission-critical, and they’re unanswered."
The senators also raised concerns about how the data from the scan is stored, writing that the process doesn’t appear to have “the proper safeguards to prevent the spread of this data to third parties or other government agencies.”
JetBlue first announced that it would tests a facial-recognition system for boarding at Logan Airport back in May.