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CBP and MWAA Partner to Speed Up International Departures and Arrivals by Adding Facial Recognition Technology

Release Date: 
September 6, 2018

WASHINGTON—U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority (MWAA) announced today joint efforts to implement facial recognition technology to transform the traveler experience for both departing and arriving international travelers at Dulles International Airport (IAD).

“CBP and our airport and airlines partners are redefining travel by using biometric technology to add convenience, efficiency and security to international arrivals and departures,” said CBP Commissioner Kevin McAleenan. “We have a great partner in Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority, whose forward-leaning approach to utilizing CBP’s verification system will enable international travelers at Dulles International Airport to experience a frictionless boarding process before the end of the year.”

“We designed this technology to be deployed faster and offer a portable, flexible and less expensive alternative than other biometric screening systems that have been introduced,” said Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority President and CEO Jack Potter. “In addition to helping meet the congressional mandate, we hope this technology becomes a useful and cost-effective tool for airports and airlines that process the growing number of travelers entering and leaving the United States.”

CBP uses airline manifest data to retrieve existing traveler photographs from government databases, including passports and visas, to build a photo gallery of travelers who are expected to arrive and depart the United States. CBP then compares the “live” photographs of travelers taken with those that are already on file in DHS holdings. No new data is required.

Currently, CBP is testing biometric exit at 15 major airports across the United States. The facial recognition verification process takes less than 2 seconds, with a 99 percent matching rate. CBP has been testing facial recognition technology to satisfy its biometric exit Congressional mandate.

CBP has also implemented facial comparison technology for arrival processing at 14 locations. The new simplified arrival process enables increased security, faster throughput, and better efficiency.

On August 22, CBP officers utilizing the facial recognition technology intercepted an imposter at IAD that was attempting to enter the United States using a French passport. A search revealed the man’s authentic Republic of Congo identification card concealed in his shoe. This was the first imposter intercepted using this technology.

CBP is committed to its privacy obligations and has taken steps to safeguard the privacy of all travelers. CBP has published several Privacy Impact Assessments, employed strong technical security safeguards, and has limited the amount of personally identifiable information used in the new biometric process.

In addition to IAD, CBP has facial recognition operations in Atlanta, Boston, Chicago O’Hare, Detroit, Fort Lauderdale, Houston (Intercontinental and Hobby), Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Miami, New York JFK, Orlando, San Diego, San Francisco, San Jose, Seattle, and Preclearance locations in Aruba, Abu Dhabi, and Ireland (Shannon and Dublin).

CBP also has partnerships with Air New Zealand, British Airways, Delta, Greater Orlando Aviation Authority, Jet Blue, Los Angeles World Airport, Lufthansa, and Mineta San Jose International Airport and will continue to expand public-private partnerships to advance biometric exit and enhance the passenger experience from curb to gate.

Last modified: 
September 6, 2018