EFF takes aim at CBP biometric plans
16 February 2018 15:28 GMT

The Electronic Frontier Foundation has said biometric data gathering plans by the US Customs and Border Protections infringe on citizen privacy.

In a letter, the EFF describes how it recently met with the CBP Privacy Office, and Office of Field Operations recently to participate in a briefing and update on how the CBP is implementing its Biometric Entry/Exit Program.

It writes that the EFF has many concerns about the government collecting and using biometric identifiers, and specifically, we object to the expansion of several DHS programs subjecting Americans and foreign citizens to facial recognition screening at international airports.

The group adds that CBP is currently partnering with airlines to facilitate the collection of face recognition images from travelers at international departure gates just before travelers board their flights.

"At the meeting, several CBP officials noted the choice to partner with airlines was to prevent gridlock and confusion and to leverage what airlines already do. By relying on the airlines to collect the biometric data for CBP’s exit program, CBP appears to be relinquishing control over exactly where and how travelers are photographed, as well as how travelers are notified of collection of their biometric data and their rights to opt out".

"Because of this decision to defer to airlines’ business models, CBP has not provided travelers with clear and conspicuous notice on how to opt out of the process at important points during the travel process".

The group claims that without a clear and timely method to opt out of the program, CBP is "unjustly coercing compliance".

"We remain concerned that CBP has created unnecessary burdens and risks for law-abiding travelers. Furthermore, while we recognize that CBP currently limits its retention of facial recognition data collected on U.S. citizen passengers for 14 days, we do not believe CBP has the legal authority to collect nor should be collecting this data from U.S. citizen passengers at all. "

It goes on the claim that "by allowing airlines to directly collect biometric information from all travelers without ensuring critical privacy safeguards, CBP is failing in its responsibility to protect the American people from threats."