Blunt and Merkley call for more transparency regarding the collection of biometric data from Americans when they enter the country

WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Senators Roy Blunt (Mo.) and Jeff Merkley (Oregon) sent a letter requesting more information from U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) on the use of facial recognition technology to collect biometric data from US citizens for entry. exit programs at airports, seaports and land borders.

In a letter to CBP Commissioner Chris Magnus, Blunt and Merkley urged the agency for more transparency around the program to help ensure American travelers understand the process and their right not to use facial recognition technology. biometric upon their return to the country. CBP uses technology to capture biometric data at all but 40 airports, impacting thousands of travelers per day. Blunt and Merkley urge CBP to be more transparent in how it informs citizens of their right not to use biometric facial recognition technology when collecting credentials at our borders to ensure a safe process , fair and accurate for Americans. .

“While it is now common for American citizens to be informed that their photo will be taken in order to go through the customs process, countless Americans are not sufficiently informed of their ability to opt out of this step. ” wrote the senators. “Every American citizen should be given the opportunity to make an informed decision about having their passport photo verified manually by a CBP officer instead of collecting and storing their biometrics in ways they are unfamiliar with. “

“Also, as you know, facial recognition technology is not perfect. There have been reports that people of color and women are more likely to be misidentified by this technology ”, they continued. “While we understand that CBP uses a separate methodology that only compares biometric data to manifest data, we would like more information about the process for people flagged through this system. Every American deserves the same right to privacy and should not have drastically different airport treatment experiences. Any use of biometric facial recognition technology by CBP should be accompanied by policies to ensure that reported individuals are treated in a safe, fair and non-invasive manner given the imperfection of facial recognition software.

Blunt and Merkley asked the following questions for clarification, requesting answers by February 11, 2022:

  1. In addition to updating signage, how will CBP clearly inform every U.S. citizen of their ability not to use biometric facial recognition technology during the customs process?
  2. Additionally, how will CBP ensure these signs are visible before travelers reach the point of use of the technology?
  3. Does CBP provide signage regarding its use of biometric facial recognition technology in languages ​​other than English at all locations?
  4. How does CBP ensure that travelers can opt out of using facial recognition technology without facing significant travel delays or a public review?
  • Is a CBP officer still available to deal with U.S. citizens who choose not to use biometric facial recognition technology?
  • How are US citizens informed about the storage and protection of their biometric facial data collected during this process?
    • What steps is CBP taking to protect this data against cyber attacks or any other form of unauthorized distribution or dissemination?

    Click here to read the letter.

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