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  5. Statement for the Record on Assessing CBP's Use of Facial Recognition Technology

Statement for the Record on Assessing CBP's Use of Facial Recognition Technology

U.S. Customs and Border Protection Statement for the Record for a July 27, 2022, hearing on, "Assessing CBP's Use of Facial Recognition Technology," before the House Committee on Homeland Security, Subcommittee on Border Security, Facilitation and Operations.

Statement for the Record

U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) submits this statement for the record regarding CBP’s use of biometric identification capabilities as part of our efforts to secure our borders and facilitate lawful travel.

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is statutorily mandated to develop and implement an integrated, automated entry and exit data system to match records, including biographic data and biometrics, of noncitizens entering and departing the United States. For travelers arriving by air, DHS/CBP have collected fingerprints and photos of travelers’ faces for in-scope noncitizens1 during the primary inspection since 2004.

Since taking over entry and exit operations in 2013,2 CBP has been testing various options to collect biometrics at arrival and departure. The results of these tests and the recent advancement of biometric facial recognition technology have provided CBP with a model for moving forward with implementing a comprehensive biometric exit solution. 

Technology and Performance

CBP’s biometric facial comparison technology standardizes, automates, and enhances manual processes by making them more efficient, accurate, and secure. The Traveler Verification Service (TVS) is the cloud-based, facial biometric matching service that is the foundation for CBP’s biometric verification processes at U.S. ports of entry (POE).

TVS uses a high performing facial biometric algorithm to compare a live photo of the traveler against photographs from passports, U.S. visas, or photographs from other DHS holdings. Using data that travelers are already required by statute3 to provide, the automated identity verification process uses biometric facial comparison to verify identity and swiftly and accurately confirm others who may be inadmissible including those who have overstayed their authorized period of admission.

To ensure TVS continues to use the highest performing algorithm, CBP engages with testing, research, and evaluation activities performed by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST)4 and the DHS Science and Technology Directorate. Furthermore, CBP continuously monitors its biometric matching service and conducts a variety of statistical tests and manual evaluations to gauge algorithm results and ensure optimal accuracy and performance.

CBP is aware of concerns regarding biometric facial comparison matching, specifically that non-match results may be racially or demographically biased in performance. CBP does not track race as a descriptor during traveler processing; however, CBP data analysts have performed extensive operational analytics on TVS matching that shows a negligible effect in regard to biometric matching based on country of citizenship, age, or gender while achieving an average technical match rate of 99.4 percent on entry and 98.1 percent on exit.5 No changes have been necessary as the matching performance has remained consistent for several years across multiple matching algorithms. From January 2017 through the end of June 2022, technical match rates remained high among citizens from various regions of the globe, for example: Africa 99.5 percent match rate; Asia 99.3 percent match rate; Central America 99.6 percent match rate; and Europe 99.6 percent match rate. If a traveler cannot be matched by CBP’s biometric facial comparison technology, the traveler will simply be processed through the traditional inspection process consistent with existing requirements for entry into the United States.

CBP developed TVS to be scalable and seamlessly applicable to all modes of transport throughout the travel continuum. CBP has successfully implemented facial biometrics into the entry/arrivals processes at all international airports and into the exit processes at 32 airport locations. CBP also established facial biometrics at 26 seaports and all pedestrian lanes at both the Southwest Border and the Northern Border land POEs.

Additionally, CBP’s biometric facial comparison technology is integrated in all CBP’s legacy Global Entry kiosks, reducing kiosk processing time by 85 percent,6 and CBP plans to deploy new Global Entry Touchless Portals at other locations around the country. These new Portals also utilize secure biometric facial comparison technology, are completely touch-free, and decrease processing time required by the biometric facial comparison technology by 94 percent to approximately 3.5 seconds per traveler.7

CBP is also working on a technology solution to deploy facial biometrics to our land border vehicle lanes where we believe we will see our most significant enhancement to streamlining the arrival process. Testing will allow CBP to find the best technology solution to ensure high match rates in a more challenging environment.

In total, more than 193 million travelers have been processed using biometric facial comparison technology, allowing CBP to biometrically confirm more than 1,500 individuals posing under a false or assumed identity.

Privacy and Data Protection

CBP is committed to traveler privacy, which is at the core of our biometric entry-exit efforts. CBP uses biometric facial comparison technology only at specific times and locations where travelers are already legally required to present proof of identity. CBP and its approved travel partners notify travelers through message boards and electronic signs, as well as audio announcements in some cases, that CBP or a travel partner, such as airline, airport, or cruise personnel, will be taking photos for identity verification purposes. The signage and announcements also notify eligible travelers of their “opt out” rights. U.S. citizens and select foreign nationals8 who are not required to provide biometrics and who wish to opt out of the new facial biometric process may simply notify a CBP officer, request a manual document check, and proceed with processing consistent with existing requirements for entry into the United States.9 CBP continually works with airlines, cruise line operators, airports, and other port facilities to incorporate appropriate notices and processes into their current business models and provides easy access to tear sheets on the CBP website.

CBP has an ongoing public awareness campaign to increase traveler knowledge of the facial comparison program occurring when travelers arrive internationally at airports; these program awareness signs are posted at more than 20 airports and have appeared in national publications. CBP also provides briefings to personnel who are assigned to the Traveler Communications Center (TCC) and CBP Information Center to ensure they have the latest information to answer questions. As part of its outreach efforts, CBP launched an updated biometrics website10 on September 1, 2020, that explains and promotes facial comparison technology and biometrics information in a dynamic and interactive manner. The site also highlights CBP’s commitment to privacy protections, outlined in the DHS Fair Information Practice Principles (FIPPs),11 by publishing the current locations using biometric facial comparison technology, information on how to request alternative screening, copies of CBP’s privacy signage, and a link to TVS privacy documents.

CBP provides details of its facial biometric entry-exit efforts through applicable Privacy Impact Assessments (PIA) and Privacy Act Systems of Records Notices (SORN).12 CBP published its comprehensive PIA concerning TVS in November 2018, and a subsequent update in February 2021. The PIA explains aspects of CBP’s biometric use, as well as policies and procedures for the collection, storage, analysis, use, dissemination, retention, and/or deletion of data.13 The PIA and the public notices specifically highlight that all facial images of U.S. citizens used for facial biometric matching purposes are held in secure CBP systems for no more than 12 hours after identity verification, in case of an extended system outage or for disaster recovery.14 CBP strictly adheres to these requirements and a recent assessment by the DHS Office of the Inspector General found that CBP complied with biometric facial recognition policies to identify international travelers at airports.15 DHS also utilizes a PIA for its biometric testing, research, and evaluation activities performed by the DHS Science and Technology Directorate for DHS Components, including CBP, documenting the use, protections, and retention or deletion of test data.16

These policies and safeguards also apply to CBP’s approved partners, such as airlines, airport authorities, or cruise lines, prohibiting them from retaining the photos they collect as part of the entry/exit program for their own business purposes. They cannot store images following transmittal to CBP, and the partner must allow CBP to perform security audits and penetration tests to evaluate cybersecurity and privacy postures to ensure compliance with this requirement. As stated in the TVS PIA, CBP developed business requirements and system-wide standards to document this commitment and private sector partners must agree as a condition of participation. To date, CBP has conducted eight assessments with one being completed, four currently addressing recommendations, and three having reports on findings being drafted. Four additional assessments are planned for the coming fiscal year. The CBP Privacy Division has also nearly completed a Privacy Evaluation, as noted in the 2021 TVS PIA update, to ensure that all parties, including airlines, airport authorities, and cloud providers, are in compliance with the required privacy protections. The evaluation is currently pending internal final review.

Looking Forward

CBP continues to integrate biometric facial comparison technology into its travel operations as part of its vision for a comprehensive biometric entry-exit system that avoids adding new processes; utilizes existing infrastructure; leverages existing stakeholder systems, processes, and business models; compliments passenger behaviors and expectations; and utilizes existing traveler data and existing Government information technology infrastructure.

CBP is leading efforts, consistent with U.S. law, to transform how travelers interact with not only CBP, but also airports, airlines, cruise lines, and other government agencies with security functions such as the Transportation Security Administration, creating a seamless travel process that is both reliable and secure.

Moving forward, CBP will continue to work closely with key stakeholders including NIST, Congress, industry, and our travel partners to ensure we share best practices and lessons learned, as we continue to seek the most innovative technologies, streamline our business processes, and strengthen our border security operations.

 


1 The following categories of noncitizens currently are exempt from the requirements under 8 CFR 215.8 and 235.1 to provide biometrics upon arrival to, and departure from, the United States at a U.S. port of entry: noncitizens under the age of 14 and over the age of 79; noncitizens admitted on an A-1, A-2, C-3 (except for attendants, servants, or personal employees of accredited officials), G-1, G-2, G-3, G-4, NATO-1, NATO-2, NATO-3, NATO-4, NATO-5, or NATO-6 visa; certain Taiwan officials who hold E-1 visas and members of their immediate families who hold E-1 visas unless the Secretary of State and the Secretary of Homeland Security jointly determine that a class of such aliens should be subject to the requirements; and Canadian citizens under INA 101(a)(15)(B) (8 U.S.C. 1011(a)(15)(B)) who are not otherwise required to present a visa or be issued Form I-94 or Form I-95 for admission or parole into the United States. This category of exemptions covers Canadian citizens traveling on a B1 or B2 visa.
2 Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations Act, 2013, P.L. 113-6.
3 The 1996 Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act (Pub. L. 104-208) authorized the U.S. Government to use an automated system to record arrivals and departures of non-U.S. citizens at all air, sea, and land ports of entry. CBP is also authorized to collect biometric entry and exit information pursuant to numerous laws, including the 2002 Enhanced Border Security and Visa Entry Reform Act (Pub. L. 107-173), the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004 (Pub. L. 108-458), and the Implementing Recommendations of the 9/11 Commission Act of 2007 (Pub. L. 110-59).
4 See, “Face Recognition Vendor Test (FRVT) Part 7: Identification for Paperless Travel and Immigration,” National Institute of Standards and Technology, July 2021, https://nvlpubs.nist.gov/nistpubs/ir/2021/NIST.IR.8381.pdf.
5 There are multiple factors that could be cause for the match rate difference between entry and exit, including lighting and other environmental factors that CBP cannot control when the technology is used by a travel partner.
6 When compared to CBP legacy Global Entry kiosks without biometric facial comparison technology.
7 When compared to CBP legacy Global Entry kiosks without biometric facial comparison technology.
8 See footnote 1.
9 See Notices, “Collection of Biometric Data from Aliens Upon Entry to and Departure From the United States,” https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2020/11/19/2020-24707/collection-of-biometric-data-from-aliens-upon-entry-to-and-departure-from-the-united-states; and https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2021/02/10/2021-02699/collection-of-biometric-data-from-aliens-upon-entry-to-and-departure-from-the-united-states.
10 https://biometrics.cbp.gov/
11 https://www.dhs.gov/publication/privacy-policy-guidance-memorandum-2008-01-fair-information-practice-principles
12 SORNs associated with CBP’s Traveler Verification Service are DHS/CBP-007 Border Crossing Information, DHS/CBP-021 Arrival and Departure Information System, DHS/CBP-006 Automated Targeting System, DHS/CBP-011 U.S. Customs and Border Protection TECS, available here: https://www.dhs.gov/system-records-notices-sorns.
13 See Traveler Verification Service Privacy Impact Assessment at https://www.dhs.gov/publication/dhscbppia-056-traveler-verification-service.
14 CBP enrolls the majority of non-U.S. citizen travelers in the DHS Biometric Identity Management System as a biometric confirmation of entry or departure and retains the photos for up to 75 years. Non-USC photos are sent to OBIM’s IDENT/HART. For OBIM Homeland Advanced Recognition Technology System (HART) PIA see, https://www.dhs.gov/publication/dhsobimpia-004-homeland-advanced-recognition-technology-system-hart-increment-1.
15 CBP Complied with Facial Recognition Policies to Identify International Travelers at Airports. U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Office of the Inspector General, July 5, 2022, www.oig.dhs.gov/sites/default/files/assets/2022-07/OIG-22-48-July22.pdf.
16 DHS/S&T/PIA–027 S&T Test Data | Homeland Security

Last Modified: Aug 29, 2022