U.S. starts collecting biometrics at the Otay Mesa border crossing

U.S. Customs and Border Protection began a pilot program collecting facial photographs and iris images of foreigners entering and departing the United States from the Otay Mesa, California land border port-of-entry.

CBP began scanning foreigners entering on foot at San Diego’s Otay Mesa port of entry on Thursday. Next February, it will start collecting the same information on foreigners exiting into Mexico through the checkpoint. The pilot runs through to June 2016.

To record the data, CBP has installed six new kiosks with the ability to read irises and record facial characteristics, a process that takes a matter of seconds.

The Otay Mesa Land Border Port-of Entry Pedestrian Exit Test is a short-term biometric data collection initiative that will help CBP determine the feasibility of capturing biometric data from certain departing aliens in a range of environmental conditions. They will look at the accuracy of the cameras and consider whether to expand screening to foreigners at all land crossings on the border with Mexico.

The government has not said how faces and eyes will be scanned when foreigners leave the country, but an official said most won’t have to stop walking. Scanners will read chip-enabled travel documents at a distance and match the information to entry records.

Beginning in February, CBP will also collect biographic data from traveller’s documents from all travelers exiting the country at the Otay Mesa port-of-entry, including U.S. citizens. They won’t have to stop if their travel documents are chip-enabled.

7,000 to 8,000 pedestrians cross daily at Otay Mesa from Tijuana and slightly less than half of them are U.S. citizens.

CBP first announced the “Pedestrian Exit Test” at the end of the summer.

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