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Immigrant tracking biometric app contract expanded by US agency

Immigrant tracking biometric app contract expanded by US agency

The U.S. immigration agency has renewed a biometric surveillance contract to create a new facial recognition app for tracking immigrants who seek asylum at the southern border.

According to reporting by Business Insider the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency extended a six-month contract with Trust Stamp, a publicly held digital identity services startup.

As with most government uses of facial recognition, the ICE program involved in this contract has its critics.

Ten thousand phones holding face biometrics, GPS and case-management apps will be supplied to ICE. Officials will give them to people awaiting asylum hearings. The agency says more than 170,000 are trying to cross the border each month.

The all-options value of the new contract, signed last month, combined with a larger contract signed last fall, is $7.2 million. According to the federal government, the project is estimated to end before October 2022.

Trust Stamp’s rapid-enrollment app will bolster the agency’s Alternatives to Detention program in which some would-be immigrants are allowed to wait for their government hearings outside of detention centers.

Those chosen for the Alternatives to Detention program are tracked using some combination ankle bracelets, telephone check-ins, unscheduled visits by ICE employees or handheld devices that perform facial recognition.

The goal is to keep tabs on asylum seekers and make sure they show up for required immigration proceedings.

Funding came via ICE’s Detention Compliance and Removals office. The procurement identifier is 70CDCR21P00000056.

The American Civil Liberties Union has tried to make the government release facial recognition records pertaining held by ICE, the Customs and Border Protection agency and the Department of Homeland Security, which oversees the two previous units.

Sometimes the opposition comes from in the government, as when Democratic Democrats balked at the $46 million that the White House wanted to spend to make a finger, face and iris biometrics database.

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