A new federal program called Biometric Exit, which uses facial recognition to track visa holders flying out of the US, could be soon expanding to airports throughout the country, according to a Tuesday report from The Verge.

Facial recognition technology was implemented under the Obama administration in Washington, DC’s Dulles airport in 2015, and New York’s JFK airport in 2016. And while the Biometric Exit was planned for a deployment in early 2018, the Trump administration has taken steps to expedite the process and bring the system to airports more quickly, The Verge reported.

The January 2017 travel ban issued by Trump contained language pointing to a speeding up of the implementation. According to Section 7 of the executive order: “The Secretary of Homeland Security shall expedite the completion and implementation of a biometric entry-exit tracking system for all travelers to the United States, as recommended by the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States.”

SEE: US police storing facial image data of 117 million Americans, report says

Here’s how the Biometric Exit system works: Before boarding a plane out of the US, photos will be taken of the passengers, which will be matched up against the photos connected to their visas. If there is no match, The Verge report said, it could be a sign that the passenger initially entered the US illegally.

Currently, Biometric Exit is being used on an Atlanta to Tokyo flight, but the report noted that it could be coming to more airports as soon as this summer. Larry Panetta of US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) told The Verge that facial recognition is the biometric point that they’ll be focusing on moving forward.

“We currently have everyone’s photo, so we don’t need to do any sort of enrollment,” Panetta told The Verge. “We have access to the Department of State records so we have photos of US Citizens, we have visa photos, we have photos of people when they cross into the US and their biometrics are captured into [DHS biometric database] IDENT.”

Once the infrastructure is built out, Panetta also noted that the information therein could be given to the TSA and private airlines as well. If shared with those entities, it could broaden the potential privacy concerns that the Biometric Exit program has to begin with.

For business travelers from outside the US, and workers who may be pursuing a visa to work in the US, the Biometric Exit program will likely initially be used to track who is overstaying the time allotted by their visa. So, keep that in mind when applying, and be sure to carefully follow the schedule determined by your particular visa.

The 3 big takeaways for TechRepublic readers

  1. The Trump administration is taking steps to expedite the Biometric Exit program, which uses facial recognition to track visa holders flying out of the US, according to a report from The Verge,
  2. Biometric Exit is currently being used on an Atlanta to Tokyo flight, but it could expand to more airports by this summer.
  3. The program is intended to track who has overstayed the time allotted by their visa, and potentially to determine who may have entered the US illegally.