Donald Trump’s Department of Homeland Security team is a clear indication of what to expect moving forward when it comes to government surveillance, including facial recognition and biometric technologies.
The president-elect himself has made clear that he intends to ramp up surveillance efforts. In Dec. 2015, Trump said in an interview that he would “err on the side of security,” adding that he would be fine with restoring parts of the Patriot Act.
Kansas Rep. Mike Pompeo, Trump’s pick for director of the CIA has also been a defender of mass surveillance, as has Attorney General pick Jeff Sessions. Trump’s campaign was framed by an expansive national security state, as he ran on a law and order platform calling for “surveillance of certain mosques” and a registry of Muslims.
The Intercept reports that based on Trump’s DHS picks and his campaign rhetoric, it’s likely his administration will rely on surveillance technologies such as “threat detection algorithms, facial recognition technology, and an expansion of ‘verifiable’ identity solutions both in real life and online.”
Several members of Trump’s transition team are associated with Safran, a French security firm leading in biometrics and identification systems based on fingerprinting, eye and facial recognition.
Members include Michael Dougherty, who heads the Secure Identity & Biometrics Association; Lora Ries, who was formerly registered as a lobbyist for facial recognition firm, L-1 Identity Solutions; and John Sanders who is a board member of a security firm that expands CCTV cameras to include facial recognition features.
The Trump team’s relationship with Silicon Valley technocrats is another indication of private sector leadership in the Trump administration. Retired Marine Corps Gen. John Kelly discussed this in his confirmation hearing to head the DHS, noting a need to “reach out to the commercial world – Silicon Valley, that kind of thing, to engage them.”
He added, “More cooperation amongst the private sector and the federal sector, the state sector, would go a long way.” The Homeland Security Advanced Research Projects Administration (HSARPA) allocated $65 million in its most recent budget for its biometric database.
These facial recognition and biometric technologies have also made their way into non-federal law enforcement, including in California, Maryland, and Massachusetts, whose identification system came from Safran.