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Romulus — Travelers at Detroit Metro Airport can now opt to use facial recognition technology when going through customs, officials announced Wednesday.

The Simplified Arrival process aims to modernize international arrivals at the Romulus site while also speeding up arrivals and departures,  U.S. Customs and Border Protection said in a statement.

"Facial comparison technology is used because it seamlessly integrates into the airport environment and is easy to use for travelers and facilitates the flow of legitimate travel," customs officials said in the release. 

"Face comparison technology also strengthens National Security by reducing the risk that an imposter uses a lost or stolen travel document to enter or exit the United States. The technology enables CBP officers to focus on the traveler interview rather than administrative tasks."

According to the Customs and Border Protection website, each international traveler’s photo is taken before entry or exit. A biometric matching service compares the new photo with images including photographs taken during the entry inspection, photographs from U.S. passports, U.S. visas and other travel documents, as well as photos from previous Department of Homeland Security encounters.

Photographs of U.S. citizens collected through the process are deleted within 12 hours, customs officials said. U.S. citizens who don't want to have their picture taken can request other means of verifying their identities and documents.

Customs and Border Protection "has taken steps to safeguard the privacy of all travelers," including limiting the amount of personally identifiable information used, agency representatives said Wednesday.

The move comes less than a year after Delta Air Lines Inc. introduced facial recognition at all of its Detroit Metro Airport international gates to help travelers more quickly check bags, get through security and board their flight.

Elsewhere, the software has become more popular with parents.

However, Detroit police's use of facial recognition and surveillance technology has sparked controversy amid growing concerns about privacy and studies suggesting it is more likely to identify incorrectly people with darker skin than those with lighter pigmentation.

The Detroit City Council in July 2017 approved a $1 million purchase of the software, and the Police Department has used it since under standard operating procedures.

Police Chief James Craig in June asked the Board of Police Commissioners to approve a permanent policy governing use of the technology. This month, the board approved the policy with revisions that include stronger penalties for anyone found abusing the system, and a prohibition from sharing photos used in the facial recognition software with private companies.

Meanwhile, two bills that would ban or delay police use of facial recognition technology in Michigan, HB 4810 and SB 342, were pending. 

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