US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) is once again asking the public to comment on a proposed change to the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) biometric data collection policies. The policy would expand the organization’s ability to collect the biometric information of non-US citizens at the country’s borders.
The Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) was first published on November 19, 2020, ahead of a 30-day comment period that closed on December 21. However, CBP has deigned to reopen the comment period for another 30 days, based on the feedback it received during that initial window. The new window will open on February 10, after which the organization will accept comments until March 12.
“As a testament to CBP’s commitment to privacy principles and transparency, CBP reopened the comment period to the biometric entry and exit proposed rule for an additional 30 days,” said CBP Executive Assistant Commissioner of Field Operations William Ferrara. “We welcome the public’s input to the rule as we work to further secure and enhance a touchless, seamless travel experience through facial biometrics.”
The proposed changes would eliminate port limitations to give CBP more authority to collect biometric information from people leaving the country. As it stands, the organization can only record the biometrics of people leaving from select points of departure. DHS is hoping that the new rule will extend to every border crossing, thereby increasing the amount of biometric information it is allowed to collect, and the number of people that it is able to take it from.
In September, DHS faced considerable backlash after publishing a related policy proposal that would grant the agency sweeping biometric data collection powers. Privacy advocates warned that the proposal was vaguely worded and could apply to US citizens, and also criticized the agency for trying to force the change through with a truncated public comment period. The Homeland Security Advisory Council would later censure the agency for its lack of transparency while developing and introducing the proposal.
February 9, 2021 – by Eric Weiss