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U.S. biometric entry/exit program moves on to Phase II


The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has moved on to the second phase of testing for the Traveler Verification Service (TVS) used in its Biometric Entry/Exit system, FedTech reports. In the second phase, the DHS agencies will use a cloud-based service to store matching images and speed up the verification process, and then return results to a TSA-owned tablet operated by a security officer.

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) and Customs and Border Protection (CBP) tested the feasibility of biometric facial recognition and matching for the TVS system in the first phase, which began in October 2017. Since then, trials have been launched at a number of airports including Boston Logan International and Orlando International. The trials have reportedly cut processing time for travelers in half, and have had relatively few opt-outs or failed verifications.

A Privacy Impact Assessment Update (PDF) document from DHS says the phase two process begins with travellers on outbound international flights being directed to a CBP-owned camera for image collection. This image is transmitted to the TVS for template conversion and matching against a gallery populated from passenger manifests. The result is sent to a TSA-owned tablet to be viewed by a security officer on a mobile dashboard application developed by CBP, with biographical information in the event of a match, and with only a picture if the match attempt is unsuccessful. In either case, security officers continue with standard checking procedures at that point.

The Privacy Impact Assessment details the various security and privacy controls in place, and notes that traveler’s images are deleted from the tablet within two minutes, and from the TVS cloud service within 12 hours. U.S. citizen’s facial images are not stored in the core CBP database, but those of non-U.S. citizens will be held for up to 14 days.

The Biometric Entry/Exit program continues to generate controversy, though DHS Office of Biometric Identity Management (OBIM) Director of Identity Operations Patrick Nemeth recently told Biometric Update that OBIM, which operates all biometric matching functions for DHS, protects biometric data with robust and transparent security and privacy measures.

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