In a new letter to CBP Deputy Executive Assistant Commissioner John P. Wagner, the Electronic Frontier Foundation argues that the US Customs and Border Protection Agency is relying too much on the private sector in its biometric exit program, and is shirking its own responsibilities and imperiling American’s biometric data in the process.
The letter comes after the CBP held its second meeting with privacy advocacy groups last month, after an initial meeting on its biometric exit activities last August. And while the EFF has come away from this latest meeting with some of the same fundamental misgivings about the CBP’s use of biometric screening at airports in general, it’s now urging the agency to correct course on the issue of how the CBP handles the collection and maintenance of biometric data specifically.
The problem revolves around the CBP’s partnership with airlines such as Delta. In relying so much on such private sector groups to collect the biometric data of travelers, the EFF argues, the agency is “relinquishing control over exactly where and how travelers are photographed, as well as how travelers are notified of collection of their biometric data and their rights to opt out.” And what’s more, the CBP is actually “incentivizing” the private sector to collect this biometric data – so it should take on “the responsibility to secure the data and ensure it is safe from hackers, thieves, stalkers and other bad actors, whether that data is held by the government or by private companies.”
Of course, in the EFF’s view, the CBP shouldn’t be allowing the collection of this data from Americans at all, even if participation is ostensibly voluntary. “Congress has not authorized a biometric data collection program for American citizens, and we still do not understand why the perceived threat of identity theft and forged passports is great enough to require biometric data collection on all people leaving the country,” the organization writes.
The publication of the EFF’s letter comes as CBP Acting Commissioner Kevin McAleenan has sought to reassure concerned senators that the CBP’s biometric screening program is indeed voluntary for American citizens, and that the technology being used is sufficiently accurate. For its part, the EFF concludes its letter with a request for further information and documentation concerning the biometric exit program including a list of all participating airports, technology specifications for the transmission of biometric data, and Memoranda of Understanding between the CBP and its airline partners regarding the facial recognition system being used.
Source: Electronic Frontier Foundation
February 21, 2018 – by Alex Perala