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US govt monitors trusted travelers even as it removes hurdles with biometric programs

US govt monitors trusted travelers even as it removes hurdles with biometric programs

Trust by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency only goes so far, and the limit is surprising to some residents who travel internationally.

On the same day that the CBP announced a significant upgrade in convenience for its Global Entry program in a Midwest airport, news site Newsweek was pointing out the extent of monitoring that comes with membership.

The government’s Global Entry program provides pre-approved members expedited security clearance on return travel to the United States. Applicants pay $100 to be vetted and biometrically scanned. Those deemed low risk can become members.

Some members, perhaps most, assume that the investigation into their lives ends after approval, but Newsweek has found that it does not.

In fact, some level of scrutiny of Global Entry members continues every 24 hours, according to Newsweek’s reporting, regardless if they are flying or even booked on a flight.

It makes sense to do it because people’s behaviors and associations can change daily. But as with other public and private biometric products and programs, CBP officials don’t emphasize this point with people. Newsweek says details are in the program’s fine print.

Subsequent monitoring includes database searches on a member’s name. The government is looking for ongoing investigations by any level of government law enforcement.

A report by the Department of Homeland Security states that about 12,000 memberships (out of 7.4 million) were revoked “through” fiscal 2022. It is not clear if that was a cumulative number for the program or just for that period.

The CBP is more demonstrative with expansions and upgrades of biometric ID programs for travelers.

Last week, the agency said upgraded Global Entry capabilities were part of the opening of Kansas City International Airport’s new terminal.

Members using that terminal do not need paper ticket receipts. Biometrics and “mobile solutions” make tickets moot, according to a statement issued by LaFonda D. Sutton-Burke, director of field operations in Chicago.

Her statement included an admission that Global Entry members can still be randomly sidelined while traveling into the U.S.

Along with the many other roles a trusted traveler program has, this one is an experiment to see if there is a level of convenience offered by digital identity and biometric verification that can assuage travelers’ concern about their privacy.

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