ICE deploys mobile face biometrics to remotely monitor registered migrants
A pair of recently deployed facial recognition systems are helping the U.S. government monitor migrants and other foreign nationals crossing the southern border.
Immigration officials are backing away from the use of ankle monitors, which use GPS sensors to locate wearers as they await immigration hearings. A comparatively small program involving a selfie biometric app for phones is replacing the shackles.
GEO Group’s biometric SmartLINK app confirms that the registered migrant is where they told government agents they would be. The application also offers voice and video connections with Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents and enables them to set calendar reminders for required appointments and view case documents, according to GEO Group documents.
SmartLINK is part of ICE’s Alternatives to Detention program, which identifies and monitors migrants considered to present a low risk of flight and those with compelling humanitarian reasons to be released.
Border patrol officials push the humane aspects of abandoning bracelets — primarily the physical discomfort they can cause and the inconvenience of having to recharge them throughout each day.
However, it has been reported by advocacy groups that SmartLINK program users must provide contact information of five family members and friends, which brings them into a system many would prefer to avoid.
And it is unclear what, if any, data privacy policies are in place at GEO Group or if the contractor is bound by government policies regarding informed consent, collection, management, security and deletion.
It is safe to assume that migrants using SmartLINK will have their data shared among Homeland Security agencies and possibly among state and local law enforcement agencies for some time. Their faces also likely will be included in federal biometric databases.
Another facial recognition program, Simplified Arrival, has been deployed for people approaching pedestrian border crossings in Arizona and Texas. It is billed as automating the conventional manual document checks that crossing offices conduct when a non-U.S. citizen requests to enter.
People will have a photo taken at a crossing, and agents will review their travel documents, which triggers a comparison of the new photo against existing passport or visa images on file.
The Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agency claims the biometric process takes “a few seconds” and is more than 98 percent accurate. New photos are supposed to be deleted within 12 hours of being taken.