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CBP biometrics website aims to demystify face matching service

Mobile biometric enrollment to TSA PreCheck proposed for rural Americans
CBP biometrics website aims to demystify face matching service

Customs and Border Protection’s Office of Field Operations has launched a new website on its Biometric Entry/Exit program to provide the American public with information about its use of biometric technology.

The agency notes that the program long predates the COVID-19 pandemic, but that it has become a “better public health option” under the circumstances. Information on where the process is used and how to opt out of it are also provided.

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) recently published the findings of an audit of CBP’s and Transportation Security Administration’s (TSA’s) biometric processes, recommending that CBP work on safeguarding the privacy of travelers by making sure its partners are complying with program rules. The audit also recommended CBP make greater efforts to inform the public about where the program is in operation, and how people can opt out.

The biometric facial comparison service is now in operation at 20 terminals in 18 airports across the country for entry, and at 21 terminals in 20 airports for passengers departing the country. Face biometrics are also deployed to seven seaports for cruise passengers. One vehicle crossing on each of the Southern and Northern borders has facial recognition in place, along with five pedestrian crossings at the border with Mexico.

The agency said in a press release that the website includes the location and alternative screening information as a testament to the privacy protections set out in its DHS Fair Information Practice Principles.

An introduction to the technology is provided, along with sections on what is done during the process, how it works, and where it has been implemented so far. A virtual tour and a couple of traveler testimonials are also included on the site. DHS’ Privacy Impact Assessment and related System of Records Notices (SORNs) are linked from a page on privacy, eight signage documents are available, and a partner page explains the role of partnerships in the program and gives businesses a way to request information on becoming a partner.

Mobile biometric enrollment proposed for TSA Precheck

A pair of U.S. Senators have introduced proposed legislation to enable Americans living in rural communities to use mobile biometric enrollment to sign up for TSA PreCheck services, rather than having to travel to an airport specifically to enroll during the COVID-19 pubic health crisis.

The “Mobile Enrollment Act” is intended to align TSA with Congressional intent, ensure that a multi-vendor, secure end-to-end solution available for people in rural communities, and fast-track implementation of mobile biometric capture, which the announcement notes “is a critical tool in the advancement of digital government services.”

A bi-partisan piece of legislation to begin standing up a digital identity system that could be used for government services was recently proposed.

Thune noted that South Dakota’s only enrollment center is located in Sioux Falls.

“This corrective legislation will get the TSA back on track to provide secure, user-friendly mobile enrollment options for rural Americans. It will also create opportunities for public and private entities to join forces in validating identity through mobile biometric capture,” states Senator Blackburn in an announcement. “Additionally, this legislation will create new high-skilled engineering jobs in Franklin. The federal government needs to continue to adapt to the needs of the pandemic, and prioritizing access to government resources for rural Tennesseans will continue to be at the top of my list.”

Idemia holds the contract for the Universal Enrollment Service, conducting TSA PreCheck and other vetting programs with a team of more than 300 employees in Franklin, Tennessee.

“Senator Blackburn’s continued leadership and advocacy of this legislation helps to ensure continued job growth in Tennessee, while advancing TSA’s use of new and emerging technologies,” says Ed Casey, CEO, IDEMIA Identity & Security North America. “I would also like to thank Senator Thune for his continued advocacy and leadership to ensure that our rural communities can easily enroll in PreCheck. This legislation is an important next step in making that vision a reality.”

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