July 21, 2017 -
Privacy rights organization Electronic Privacy Information Center asked a D.C. federal judge to order U.S. Customs and Border Protection to disclose information about its use of biometric information at U.S. entry and exit points, according to a report by Law 360.
The Department of Homeland Security has been fast-tracking the system based on President Donald Trump’s executive order on immigration and refugees.
The move comes just a few weeks after EPIC urged the TSA to consider other options for expanding the collection of biometric identifiers for the TSA Pre-Check application.
Over the past year, EPIC has asked the CBP to release information about its use of facial recognition and iris recognition technology at major airports and pedestrian crossings along the southwestern border as the agency continues to implement a biometric entry-exit tracking system, according to EPIC’s complaint.
The organization alleges that CBP has not handed over any documents, despite receiving the first Freedom of Information Act request more than a year ago. The request focused on a pilot project involving matching the face of a person showing a passport for entry into the United States with the photograph embedded in the passport.
EPIC said it was concerned about the use of facial and iris recognition technologies as they pose “significant threats to privacy and civil liberties”, meanwhile, there is an apparent lack of federal regulations controlling how biometric identifiers are collected and used.
“Ubiquitous and near-effortless identification eliminates individuals’ ability to control their identities and poses a specific risk to the First Amendment rights of free association and free expression,” the complaint said.
In 2015, CBP launched three pilot projects at the top 10 airports and at pedestrian crossings on the southwestern border, which includes facial recognition as well as testing iris-imaging capabilities.
The organization is requesting more information about these processes, which it argued that individuals — including U.S. citizens — don’t enroll in and can’t opt out of, which raises significant privacy concerns.
EPIC National Security Counsel Jeramie D. Scott said that facial recognition is intrusive, unreliable and can be exploited for mass surveillance of the public.
“The use of facial recognition at the border has real consequences for US citizens as well as non-U.S. citizens,” Scott said. “All people entering the U.S., including U.S. passport holders, could be subject to the new screening technique.”