Customs & Border Protection Tests Face Recognition Technology

Welcome to a new era of face recognition technology. The U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has initiated a pilot program in several ports of entry around the country using face recognition technology. Currently, this new technology is in use at some international airports such as Washington D.C, New York J.F.K., Miami, and Los Angeles.  BCP has announced that it will deploy face recognition at the Anzalduas port of entry in Texas in August. This technology will capture images of occupants in moving vehicles as they travel to and from Mexico.

CBP has been working aggressively to enhance the technology so it can record information on individuals entering the US. In 2011, Congress passed legislation to use biometric technology to screen foreigners entering the US, including Lawful Permanent Residents. CBP has more experience with the entry program, which funnels passengers through CBP checkpoints. However, an exit program is more complicated because individuals depart airports from multiple points; there is no central location to capture biometrics. Previously, CBP has not implemented the exit program to avoid causing extensive delays in the airport process.

In 2017 some airlines cooperated with CBP to implement facial recognition technology for boarding without a boarding pass. CBP wants to use this technology nationwide where can capture data in real time.

Privacy groups and two U.S. Senators have questioned the legality of these biometrics programs screening and photographing U.S. citizens. Senators Edward Markey (D-Mass.) and Mike Lee (R- Utah), in a letter to DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, noted various objections.

  • Congress has never authorized the use of biometric screening for any purpose on U.S. citizens
  • The DHS had no authority to collect and store (even for just 14 days) the data of U.S. citizens
  • The error rate is four-percent (meaning, one in 25 individuals might be misidentified).

In the letter, delivered in December 2017, challenges the way biometrics are captured at U.S. international airports. Certainly, the same objections apply to the pilot program at the Mexican border.


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