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Epic publishes comments on DHS biometric border management


Public interest research group, Epic – the Electronic Privacy Information Center — has just published its comments and suggested specific security measures in regards to the Department of Homeland Security’s biometric border management system.

The advocacy group’s recommendations come following a DHS request for comment published in April regarding its Office of Biometric Identity Management’s (OBIM) data collection efforts.

From Epic’s submission: “Specifically, EPIC recommends that DHS: (1) impose strict information security safeguards on its biometric information collection and limit its dissemination of biometric information; (2) conduct a comprehensive privacy impact assessment on the OBIM Program; (3) grant individuals Privacy Act rights before collecting additional biometric information; and (4) adhere to international privacy standards.”

Formerly US-VISIT, OBIM involves the collection and analysis of biometrics of visitors to the country.

“Currently, 30,000 individuals from federal, state, and local governments access the data contained in the US-VISIT program every day,” EPIC says.

As we reported in February, Bob Mocny, the director of OBIM (then US-VISIT) was a keynote speaker at a recent IDGA conference and discussed among other things, privacy, standards and outreach in the US-VISIT program.

As the epic document continues, “because of inherent difficulty in maintaining adequate safeguards after such information is disseminated, DHS should limit biometric information as much as possible and restrict access to only those agencies that have proven an ability to safely protect the information. These concerns are significant. Government actors from local law enforcement to federal and state agencies have consistently proven unable to properly safeguard sensitive information.”

Reported previously, in April, Epic filed a freedom of information act lawsuit against the FBI to obtain documents about the agency’s Next Generation Identification database, which also contains biometric information.

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