U.S. Set To Track Citizens Using Face-Reading Mini Drones

A new portable mini drone is in the process of being blueprinted for the DHS that will have the capabilities of tracking a citizen that is on foot, on horseback or in a car while identifying them with facial recognition technology.

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mini drone
Dale G. Young / AP

A pilot program conducted by the Department of Homeland Security has been closed early due to an unexpected swamp in proposals submitted to design a new compact drone for the government organization.

Over $1 million has been awarded through the DHS Science and Technology Directorate, giving startups between $100,000 and $200,000 to develop sections of the mini drone, such as sensor and cybersecurity systems.

Ultimately, once finished, the drones would identify individuals through the implementation of “facial recognition or other biometric at range,” as well as tracking people on horseback, foot or vehicles within a 3 mile range.

According to Homeland Security’s Small Unmanned Aircraft System (sUAS) report, the drones would also be capable of assisting U.S. Border Patrol (USBP) officers in “support during distinct events such as detection, tracking, interdiction and apprehension.”

The new drones, according to NBC would be small enough for an officer to transport and launch with ease. Privacy advocates are concerned, however.

Matthew Feeney, a policy analyst at Cato Institute says he is worried about the governing of the facial recognition technology when coupled with drone technology. “I can understand why DHS is interested in these kinds of drones. Drones are a potentially very useful tool for law enforcement,” Feeney said. “The concern I have is drones and facial recognition are two technologies that really could — without adequate oversight — change for the worse the state of surveillance in the United States.”

Jay Stanly, a senior policy analyst and policy expert at the American Civil Liberties Union, questions what it means by the word “border” saying the US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) use of the drones could open up two thirds of Americans to the new facial recognition-tracking technology.

Jennifer Garbis, spokeswoman for CBP said the drones would be used “where there is a mission need, which extends to areas other than the southwest border [of the United States.” The drones, she said, would be subjected to a limited storage of 180 days before data was deleted in accordance with Obama-era federal law.

The ACLU’s Jay Stanley suggests a possible new age of surveillance against the American citizen. “If they were going to be deployed on the border proper — what every American thinks of as the border when you say border — then the surveillance issues are much diminished,” he said. “”Once you get into areas where Americans work and live, the privacy problems escalate.”


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