The Biometrics for Government and Law Enforcement Conference was held from July 26th -28th, 2017, just outside Washington D.C. The Conference is held every few months in DC and other parts of the country. This particular 3-day event included the perspective of U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), while also focusing more closely on the international community’s efforts to vet border crossers, as they integrate biometrics into the process. Travel and migration security officials were present from all over the world. Some themes of the conference included:
Challenges of interagency and international data-sharing. As can pose a challenge in the U.S., other countries also have multiple agencies with somewhat overlapping duties when it comes to vetting incoming tourists, refugees, and immigrants seeking employment or other visas. Now, as biometric data, such as facial images or fingerprints, are becoming more commonly captured by different countries at their borders, the question of which agencies are entitled to them and for what purpose, raises difficult policy and governance questions.
Building Public Trust: A number of speakers commented that a critical element of rolling out a biometric capture program at their country’s border would require confidence from the public that data would be used and stored responsibly, and that the security and travel facilitation benefits would outweigh any additional intrusion on privacy. Whether or not home-country citizens’ data would be captured along with all foreign visitors was another variable.
Technology: The U.S. CBP representative stated the camera to be used for CBP’s facial recognition operation for outbound international flights will not need to be very expensive. Adding that even a personal phone camera image might be sufficient. However, the technology used on the back end to analyze the image and match it to an image that exists in CBP’s dataset of individuals scheduled to depart on that flight, would have to be sophisticated enough to function quickly and accurately.
Government vs. Industry Roles and Responsibilities: Certain airlines have publicly demonstrated a willingness to participate in the U.S. pilot programs, such as Jet Blue and Delta. CBP believes that as the program grows, more airlines and passengers will view biometric capture positively from a business process standpoint. Facial recognition will gain popularity because it can be used to add speed and security in multiple facets of the flying experience from bag check to security lines to departure. However, Airlines for America, Managing Director for Passenger Facilitation, Barbara Kostuk, questioned the feasibility of making airline employees responsible for staffing the cameras at the jetway in a scenario where a CBP Officer would only arrive at the gate to address a mismatch or other issue.
You can read our full takeaways from the event on our expanded insights page.