ACLU of Washington Statement: Port of Seattle Falls Short On Facial Recognition Protections for Travelers

News Release: 
Friday, July 16, 2021
On Tuesday, the Port of Seattle passed a measure regarding facial recognition technology (FRT) that falls short of a meaningful ban on biometrics for law enforcement and mass surveillance due to the port's ongoing collaboration with Customs and Border Protection (CBP), a sister agency of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). While the Port claims to have passed a ban, in reality, Commissioners also voted on Tuesday to fund and facilitate the implementation of CBP's facial recognition systems—a move that allows for continued federal use of inaccurate and racially biased surveillance technology to track and profile individuals on Port property. This exposes the most vulnerable travelers to the harms of these dangerous surveillance systems. ACLU of Washington Technology and Liberty Manager Jennifer Lee had this reaction:
“It is disappointing that the Port did not take meaningful action to protect travelers from government surveillance. Port Commissioners had an opportunity to protect people traveling through Seattle from mass surveillance by refusing to collaborate with CBP, but instead passed a measure that not only facilitates surveillance by the federal government, but also preserves the Port’s investment in the Customs and Border Patrol’s (CBP) own facial recognition system. The Port has no control over what CBP does with the data it collects and should not issue false assurances that they are protecting the public from surveillance.”