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CBP Deploys Test of Departure Information Systems Technology at Hartsfield–Jackson Atlanta International Airport

Release Date: 
June 13, 2016

ATLANTA — U.S. Customs and Border Protection will begin a test today of the re-architecture of its data systems capabilities to process departure data and support new facial comparison technology at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport. CBP will test the ability of its information systems to compare images of travelers departing the United States against previously provided images in an automated fashion. The test will only affect travelers on one daily flight from the United States to Japan until September 30.

As part of the testing, travelers will present their boarding pass while their digital photo is taken. The process will take less than three seconds before travelers proceed to the passenger loading bridge to board their flight. Travelers over the age of 14 and under 79 will be required to participate in the test. The test will evaluate CBP’s ability to successfully compare the image of a traveler taken during departure against an image the traveler previously provided, in an automated fashion and without impacting airport operations.

The digital images of travelers will be compared and held in secure CBP data systems for post-departure analysis. Travelers who travel with a U.S. passport will not have their data retained for the purposes of this test once it is confirmed they are the true document holder. The test data will be deleted after the evaluation of the test. CBP remains committed to protecting the privacy of all travelers.

“As CBP works towards deploying a comprehensive biometric exit system, it is important that we continue to test available technology and our systems capabilities,” said John Wagner, deputy executive assistant commissioner, Office of Field Operations. “Our goal remains to implement a biometric exit system that conforms with existing standard operating procedures so that the incorporation of biometrics has minimal impact to airlines, airports, and the traveling public.”

There are several Congressional mandates that direct the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to record the arrival and departure of non-U.S. citizens by collecting biometrics. CBP first established biometric screening procedures based on digital fingerprints for certain non-U.S. citizens in 2004 to secure our borders and ensure that the foreign travelers presenting themselves for admission to the United States are who they claim to be. CBP has conducted additional tests to evaluate new biometric technologies in multiple environments in FY 2016 to further secure and facilitate legitimate travel.

A biometric exit system has been a greater challenge to implement as U.S. international airports do not have similar entry processing infrastructure for exit processing. CBP is taking a strategic and measured approach to implementing a biometric exit program by testing and evaluating advanced biometric technology in its unique operational environments. The test of CBP’s data systems capabilities to support new biometric exit operations builds upon lessons learned from CBP’s other biometric tests. DHS is committed to implementing biometric exit in 2018, starting at the highest volume airports.

CBP’s Entry/Exit strategy includes three core pillars: identify and close the biographic gaps and enhance the entry-exit system; perform targeted biometric operations; and transform the entry/exit process through the use of emerging biometric technologies. Currently, CBP relies on biometric screening—digital fingerprints and photos—to secure our borders and ensure that foreign travelers presenting themselves for admission to the United States are who they claim to be.

Last modified: 
February 27, 2018