DHS launches Identity Intelligence Biometrics (I2B) pilot project

October 19, 2015 - 

The Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Office of Intelligence and Analysis has launched the Identity Intelligence Biometrics (I2B) pilot project, in which the agency will use an automated face and fingerprint biometric identification system to identify known and suspected terrorists, as well as “Special Interest Aliens” (SIAs) found illegally crossing U.S. borders, according to a report by Homeland Security Today.

The DHS report on the I2B pilot program states that the agency will use “non-US person biometric records held by US government agencies [to]” to help determine whether existing face and fingerprint biometrics “can augment existing biometric screenings for refugee applicants and also identify a threat-nexus for a subset of non-US persons who attempt illegal entry.”

The I2B pilot will use personally identifiable information (PII) taken from refugee applicants and a portion of data collected from individuals apprehended at or near the U.S. border.

“Currently, DHS and the Intelligence Community (IC) lack an integrated, interagency biometric system capability to support biometric and identity intelligence analytical tasks using unclassified and classified biometric data sources,” said the DHS report. “This presents a systemic challenge to DHS efforts to identify, screen and vet individuals who have been apprehended or who are applying for benefits. The purpose of DHS’s participation in this pilot is to develop new biometric matching capabilities for immediate counterterrorism mission needs.”

The Office of Intelligence and Analysis (I&A), Customs and Border Protection (CBP), Office of Biometric Identity Management (OBIM) and US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will all be contributing their data, biometric expertise and mission user scenarios for the pilot project.

The OBIM, on behalf of USCIS and CBP, will submit two categories of I2B pilot records for comparison purposes for the pilot.

The first group is comprised of un-adjudicated Syrian refugee applicants enrolled by USCIS for comparison to classified IC biometric records to help screen for known or suspected terrorists, or “Refugee Records”.

The second group are individuals CBP encountered in 2013 who were found to be in the U.S. illegally. It was determined that these individuals were not from Mexico, “but whose nationality were otherwise unidentifiable for comparison to classified IC biometric holdings to assist in identification of known or suspected terrorists.”

According to the DHS report, the pilot will “evaluate identification of basic biometric capabilities and requirements for the pilot; standardize biometric records to permit ingestion and matching within IC Information Technology Enterprise (IC ITE); test ingestion and integration of biometric records in IC ITE and the applications to be used on the data within IC ITE; and, conduct mission user testing and documentation of results.”

In addition to determining the requirements for a multimodal biometrics system, the I2B pilot will also offer other benefits including the “identification of previously unidentifiable individuals related to known or suspected terrorists attempting to gain refugee status; provision of actionable intelligence on individuals attempting to illegally enter the United States without valid identification; and informing DHS on the effectiveness of IC-owned biometric technology.”

In the event that the pilot uncovers any data relating to terrorism, the agency will retain and distribute the information to counterterrorism agencies as it sees fit.

“Confirmed matches constituting Terrorism Information will be retained, used and disseminated by the IC or DHS, including updating the source systems as appropriate,” said the report. “For example, if a subject encountered at the border provides an alias, but a biometric match indicates a different name, then CBP would update the biographic record and provide the alias for existing records.

Previously reported, U.S. Customs and Border Protection is piloting a biometric border entry and exit control program at Otay Mesa, San Diego in an effort to identify and apprehend foreigners with expired visas who are have surpassed their permitted duration.

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About Justin Lee

Justin Lee has been a contributor with Biometric Update since 2014. Previously, he was a staff writer for web hosting magazine and website, theWHIR. For more than a decade, Justin has written for various publications on issues relating to technology, arts and culture, and entertainment. Follow him on Twitter @BiometricJustin.