In a move that is likely to please privacy advocates across the country, the Biden Administration has announced that it has officially rescinded a policy proposed by the Trump Administration that would have considerably expanded the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) powers to collect biometric data from immigrants.
The policy proposal — which was published on September 11, 2020 — would have allowed the DHS to legally gather face, palm, iris, and voice biometric data along with DNA from not only visa applicants but also “any… petitioner, sponsor, beneficiary, or individual filing or associated with an immigration benefit or request, including U.S. citizens… without regard to age unless the agency waives or exempts the requirement.”
At the time of the proposal, critics pointed out that the vague wording of the policy could potentially give the DHS a wide-ranging authority to force a vast number of people to submit their biometric data, with some arguing it could lead to lawyers and HR representatives of companies making it mandatory for the sponsoring of foreign workers.
During the proposal’s comment period between September 11 and October 13, more than 5,000 responses to the policy were gathered, with the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) reporting that the “overwhelming majority of which opposed this unprecedented expansion of biometrics.”
The EFF also notes that five US Senators called on the DHS to abandon its pursuit of the policy.
President Biden first announced his intentions to back away from Trump’s proposed expansion in May of this year, with ACLU staff attorney Vera Eidelman commenting at the time that the “Biden administration is right to withdraw this DHS proposal, which would have massively expanded the government’s collection of sensitive biometric identifiers out of all proportion to any legitimate need.”
July 8, 2021 — by Tony Bitzionis