IBIA blasts Georgetown University paper criticizing U.S. biometric exit pilots

The International Biometrics + Identity Association (IBIA) has responded directly to a critical report by Georgetown University’s Center on Privacy & Technology (CPT) on the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s biometric exit pilots with a white paper arguing that biometric exit should not be contentious.

“Setting the Record Straight on Face Scans in Biometric Exit” contradicts all of the major findings of the CPT’s report.

“Although the Paper highlights important areas of public interest that deserve rigorous discussion, the International Biometrics + Identity Association (IBIA) has identified significant flaws and omissions in the Paper,” the report authors write, saying the criticism is “(b)ased on factually incorrect and misleading statements as well as hypothetical arguments.”

The white paper presents arguments that biometric exit is essential, in compliance with federal law, and based on technically sound technology which is used around the world. Further, it says the practice conforms with established norms, and therefore does not represent “mission creep,” and that the pilots do not increase private entities’ access to sensitive data. It also claims that the process is justified by public demand for a faster onboarding process, that the technology has not delayed implementation, and that the system is not funded by taxpayers, but rather through increased visa fees.

The IBIA takes issue with the lack of external feedback used by the CPT, which did not consult with the IBIA or other industry organizations, and did not include feedback from Customs and Border Protection.

The white paper refers to Congressional acts, UN resolutions and reports and statements by various U.S. and international agencies in support of the necessity and legality of the biometric exit pilots. It points out that participation in the pilots is not mandatory, that the public is informed of the availability of alternative procedures by signage in airports, and that DHS erases facial images obtained on exit after 14 days. It also argues that automated facial recognition is much more accurate than visual inspection by passport officers.

The IBIA refers to the CPT’s “Not Ready for Takeoff” as “a political agenda in search of a rationale.”

Earlier this month, the Cato Institute followed the CPT paper with a call for Congress to resist funding the biometric exit program, calling it “a big waste of money.”

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