EFF requests clarification, expresses concerns on Biometric Entry/Exit implementation

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) has published a letter it sent to U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) following a January meeting between the agency and civil liberty and privacy advocacy groups to discuss the implementation of the controversial Biometric Entry/Exit Program.

The letter is addressed to CBP Deputy Executive Assistant Commissioner John P. Wagner, and expresses concerns about the program’s reliance on airlines, its collection of facial images of U.S. citizens, and the clarity with which the option not to participate is presented in airports.

“By relying on the airlines to collect the biometric data for CBP’s exit program, CBP appears to be relinquishing control over exactly where and how travelers are photographed, as well as how travelers are notified of collection of their biometric data and their rights to opt out,” the letter authors write. “Because of this decision to defer to airlines’ business models, CBP has not provided travelers with clear and conspicuous notice on how to opt out of the process at important points during the travel process. Without a clear and timely method to opt out of the program, CBP is unjustly coercing compliance.”

It provides a list of seven items the EFF hopes to receive from CBP, including a list of all airports participating in the program, a legal analysis justifying the collection of biometrics from U.S. citizens, details about the location and language of opt-out procedures and notices, the Memoranda of Understanding between CBP and its private sector partners in the program, information about the NEC algorithm used in the program, and technical specifications for transferring the collected biometric data.

The EFF has also recently called for independent oversight and privacy protections to be applied to law enforcement applications of facial recognition technology. The Biometric Entry/Exit Program has been the subject of heated debate between academic and industry groups.

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