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CBP rolls out biometric exit technology at Houston, Las Vegas airports


U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has rolled out facial recognition-based biometric exit technology at Houston’s William P. Hobby International and at Las Vegas’ McCarran International Airport.

The technology will be used at McCarran to screen a daily flight from the U.S. to Guadalajara, Mexico, and for selected flights coming out of Hobby International.

CBP has also deployed the biometric exit technology this summer at Dulles International, Bush Intercontinental Airport and O’Hare International Airport.

The agency has stated that all five deployments build on a June 2016 facial recognition pilot at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport.

Using the flight manifest, CBP builds a flight specific photo gallery using photographs from the travel document the traveler provided to the airline. CBP then compares the live photo against the document photo in the gallery to ensure the traveler is the true bearer of the document. If the photo captured at boarding is matched to a U.S. passport, the traveler — having been confirmed as a U.S. citizen — is automatically determined to be out of scope for biometric exit purposes and the photo is discarded after a short period of time.

In related news, Delta and JetBlue also recently announced collaborations with CBP to integrate facial recognition technology as part of the boarding process.

Delta is testing biometric exit immigration procedures and technology supplied by Vision-Box at New York-JFK and NEC at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta airport. Delta is also testing its biometric boarding pass program at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport in Arlington, Virginia, which allows eligible Delta SkyMiles members to use their fingerprints as proof of identity instead of displaying their boarding pass and hard copy ID at the Delta Sky Club.

JetBlue is testing facial recognition technology at Boston Logan International Airport to identify and verify customers at the gate during boarding..

At the FedScoop Digital Nation Summit a few months ago, CBP deputy executive assistant commissioner John Wagner said the agency is finally implementing the legislative mandated biometric exit program at airports. The announcement came a few weeks after the Department of Homeland Security released a report estimating that 629,000 visitors to the country overstayed their visas in 2016 due to the lack of a comprehensive biometric exit system at the nation’s ports of departure.

“Frankly, the government has struggled with this [mandate] for more than 10 years,” Wagner explained, adding that the agency would achieve the goal by using existing data collection, the latest facial recognition technology and cloud computing. He acknowledged there would be privacy issues, especially when considering that the facial recognition technology would capture images of U.S. citizens as part of the initiative.

Earlier this year, President Donald Trump signed an updated version of his executive order on immigration, which called for the expedited completion and implementation of a biometric entry/exit system for “in-scope” travelers.

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