US Customs and Border Protection has further expanded its use of biometric border control technology on land, announcing that facial recognition systems are now in place at three of the 14 pedestrian lanes at the Paso del Norte checkpoint in El Paso.
The facial recognition system will be used to process those entering the US, comparing the biometrics of the travelers to those of the photos in their travel documents, and searching for matches against a government database. The system is aimed primarily at foreign nationals, with US citizens able to ask for an alternative screening method if they wish. Those Americans who do undergo the facial recognition scan will have their photo deleted with 12 hours, the CBP says, while the photos of foreign nationals will be stored in a Department of Homeland Security database.
The deployment is part of a larger biometric border control program that the CBP has been expanding in recent years. Essentially the same facial recognition system has been put in place at a number of US airports, while the extension of this technology to land border checkpoints has been somewhat slower paced.
In a statement announcing the new El Paso deployment, the CBP framed the biometric technology as a means of both speeding up the border screening process while enhancing its security. “By automating the identity verification process, CBP can process travelers more efficiently while virtually eliminating the ability of criminals to present other people’s legitimate documents as their own for admission to the United States,” the agency said.
While the CBP’s previous deployments of this technology at airports have come under fire from privacy and civil rights advocates like the ACLU for being insufficiently accurate and racially biased, the CBP asserted in its statement that its face scanning system is 97 percent accurate. The agency says it plans to further expand the use of this technology at border checkpoints between El Paso and Juarez by the end of the year.
November 25, 2019 – by Alex Perala