The Department of Homeland Security estimates that it will use facial recognition technology on 97 percent of departing passengers within the next four years. The system photographs passengers before they board their flight and it was first rolled out in 2017. The Biometric Exit is already in use at 15 airports in the United States.

It works by photographing passengers at the departure gate and then running that against a library of images from visa and passport applications in addition to those that border agents take when foreigners enter the country. The idea behind this Biometric Exit system is to provide authorities with a good idea of who’s leaving the country and also identify people who may have overstayed their visas.

“On exit, the matching service identifies the traveler, creates an exit record, and enables CBP to biometrically confirm the departure of in-scope, non-U.S. citizens,” explains a Department of Homeland Security report. This data has also been used by the CBP to identify six travelers who attempted entry with documents that did not belong to them or were altered.

Authorities have traditionally used airline flight manifests to track who’s leaving the country. Since this system was introduced, facial recognition identified 7,000 passengers who had overstayed their visas on the 15,000 flights that it tracked.

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