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CBP looks to move biometric exit out of pilot phase, collect children’s biometrics

CBP looks to move biometric exit out of pilot phase, collect children’s biometrics

U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has submitted a rule-making proposal to build out the legal framework for its biometric entry/exit system to move beyond the pilot phase and implement the system at a greater number of airports and seaports.

A document published in the Federal Register on Thursday would, if and when approved, permit the collection of biometrics from any visitor departing the country, and eliminate the opt-out choice for foreign travelers.

CBP also seeks to eliminate the age restrictions from the program, much as it has sought to do with its proposed expansion of biometrics collection by USCIS. Currently, CBP is authorized to collect biometric data for individuals between 14 and 79 years of age.

World Privacy Forum Executive Director Pam Dixon slammed the move to enable the collection of biometrics from children, which the proposal says could help associate childhood immigration records to records from later in life, and combat child trafficking.

“It’s fact-free. It’s science-free. It’s just, ‘Here’s what we want, and we’re gonna get it, and we’re going to explain it away by saying the words identity theft and fraud and terrorism.’ That’s what this is,” Dixon told The Intercept.

The plan to deploy the system to airports first, with that stage completed within the next three to five years, followed by other ports. Previously, the rule had stipulated pilots should be limited to 15 air and seaports. A cost analysis of the facial recognition system currently used is not included, as CBP is still in the testing phase, according to the document. The new rule would also give CBP the authority to require the collection of photographs from all foreign travelers on entry or departure, or possibly other data for other biometric modalities.

CBP has considered and tested fingerprint and iris biometrics for border control purposes, though a lack of data is chief among “numerous problems” with using these modalities.

The primary benefit CBP sees in the change is the enhanced security of increased accuracy of confirmations of the identity of people leaving the country.

CBP spent $228 million on the initial pilots between 2017 and 2019, and expanding them would cost 12 cents per departure.

CBP is seeking public comments on the proposed rule changes over the next 30 days.

A new Biometrics Oversight and Coordination Council to oversee DHS’ biometrics use was recently proposed by the Homeland Security Advisory Council. CBP also launched a website to improve its public communications on biometric exit following recommendations from the GAO.

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