CBP to Expand Mandatory Biometric Border Screening to Americans

CBP to Expand Mandatory Biometric Border Screening to Americans

US Customs and Border Protection plans to further extend biometric screening to US citizens. The border agency has published a request for a rule change that would make this practice mandatory not only for foreign nationals but for Americans as well, as part of a larger biometric entry-exit system.

Such biometric screening will most likely take the form of facial recognition, which the CBP has now deployed across a number of airports as well as some land border checkpoints. These efforts have been enabled by a mandate from Congress to conduct biometric screening on foreign nationals, but the legislative order did not previously apply to US citizens as well.

In an abstract summarizing its proposed rule change, the Department of Homeland Security agency framed it as a means to “facilitate the implementation of a seamless biometric entry-exit system that uses facial recognition and to help prevent persons attempting to fraudulently use U.S. travel documents and identify criminals and known or suspected terrorists”.

The American Civil Liberties Union, which has been a stalwart opponent of the CBP’s biometric screening activities for years now, has already responded to the proposed expansion, stating that it contradicts the CBP’s previous arguments defending biometric border screening by saying that it will not be applied to US citizens. “Travelers, including U.S. citizens, should not have to submit to invasive biometric scans simply as a condition of exercising their constitutional right to travel,” stated ACLU senior policy analyst Jay Stanley. “The government’s insistence on hurtling forward with a large-scale deployment of this powerful surveillance technology raises profound privacy concerns.”

As far back as 2017, Stanley had predicted that mission creep concerning the CBP’s biometric screening program was inevitable, as part of a larger argument against the project that also included concerns about civil rights and racial discrimination.

Speaking to CNN Business, the DHS’s director of exit/entry policy and planning, Michael Hardin, said that the proposed expansion of the program will be subject to a period of public comment, but is nevertheless in the “final stages of clearance.”

Sources: CNN Business, TechCrunch, Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs

December 5, 2019 – by Alex Perala