The Department of Homeland Security is setting up a new system to manage biometric records, and is seeking to get it exempt from the Privacy Act.
In a posting on the Federal Register, the DHS explained that the proposed “Department of Homeland Security/ALL-043 Enterprise Biometric Administrative Records (EBAR) System of Records (SOR)” will allow it to collect and maintain records associated with the Automated Biometric Identification System (IDENT), and its successor, the Homeland Advanced Recognition Technology (HART) system. The aim is to let the DHS comprehensively manage the records of individuals whose biometric and associated biographic data has been collected either by the DHS itself, or through other entities.
Having faced criticism from privacy and civil rights groups from the outset, the HART system comprises the many millions of fingerprint records contained in the IDENT database, and also incorporates face, iris, voice, and DNA biometrics.
In its Federal Register posting, the DHS did not offer an overarching rationale for its effort to exempt the new records system from the Privacy Act, but instead explained that it was seeking exemptions from a number of Privacy Act subsections that “are justified on a case-by-case basis determined at the time a request is made.” In other words, the organization is seeking to have the final say as to whether individual records should or should not be allowed access when requested under the terms of the Privacy Act.
The move echoes the FBI’s exemption of its Next Generation Identification biometric system from the Privacy Act in 2017, with that organization arguing at the time that access requests through the Privacy Act could potentially compromise the agency’s investigations.
The DHS’s new records system will come into effect on April 10, 2020, with the agency accepting comment in the meantime.
Source: Federal Register
March 27, 2020 – by Alex Perala