CBP Sign

Customs and Border Protection Plans to Expand Use of Facial Recognition in Global Entry Program

The agency says that the privacy risks to travelers will actually be lower with the facial scans, since they will no longer have to offer fingerprint data in order to enter the U.S.

While Customs and Border Protection has rescinded plans to expand mandatory facial recognition to all travelers entering and exiting the country, the agency is still focused on using the technology for one group of passengers: people enrolled in the Global Entry program.

The program allows “low risk” frequent travelers to bypass CBP officers and head to baggage claim immediately after visiting a Global Entry kiosk. Most of those kiosks scan passports and take fingerprints before allowing users to officially enter the U.S.

Now, according to Nextgov, the agency will offer Global Entry travelers the ability to use facial scans for clearance and eliminate the need for a fingerprint or passport scan. The agency has been piloting the technology since June 2018 and has expanded to several other airports, including three international airports.

In a Monday privacy impact statement, CBP said that the kiosks already have cameras to take photos of travelers that will be upgraded as the facial recognition program grows. Privacy notices will be added to the upgraded machines to inform Global Entry members of the process and the data they are agreeing to submit to the government.

Once the kiosk takes a photo, the image will be matched to a gallery from CBP’s systems containing passport and visa photos as well as Global Entry enrollment photos. From there, the kiosk images will be saved into the Department of Homeland Security’s IDENT biometric database, according to Nextgov’s reporting.

“When comparing photos for a facial recognition match, [the Traveler Verification Service] uses travel document photos as well as recently taken photos to improve accuracy because up to date photos may match better than document photos,” the privacy document states.

CBP claims that facial recognition usage will lower the privacy risks to travelers because the program already took photos at the kiosks and will no longer need fingerprint data to work.

A spokesperson told Nextgov that if there are technical issues with the facial recognition program, the kiosk will default to asking passengers for their passports and to conduct a fingerprint scan.

About the Author

Haley Samsel is an Associate Content Editor for the Infrastructure Solutions Group at 1105 Media.

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