A 'Smart Wall' Could Spark a New Kind of Border Crisis


After years of promises about a physical wall stretching along the United States-Mexico border, president Donald Trump declared a state of emergency last week in an attempt to secure wall funding in spite of Congressional opposition. But physical barriers alone have always been both ineffective and expensive. And the constant debate around that singular aspect has distracted from a much more pressing issue: how the US can expand its use of technology for screening and enforcement at the border without overstepping already strained privacy rights. Border security technologies, like surveillance drones and biometric identity schemes, received funding in Congress's most recent spending bill as an alternative to Trump's physical wall. But privacy advocates have long argued that a "smart wall," often called a "smart fence," can pose real threats to human rights not just at checkpoints and processing facilities, but for anyone within the 100-mile-wide "border zone" in which US Customs and Border Protection has jurisdiction.