Over the past several months I’ve been covering the rapid acceleration toward mandatory biometric identification at U.S. airports.
At the core of this increased push is a U.S. Customs and Border Protection mandate 15 years in the making to integrate government databases for ID verification. As we’ve seen with airlines such as JetBlue, private companies will be merged into the government system in order to speed up biometric processing.
JetBlue is working with U.S. Customs and Border Protection and SITA, an information-technology provider for airlines.
“This is the first integration of biometric authorization by the CBP with an airline and may prove to be a solution that will be quick and easy to roll out across U.S. airports,” Jim Peters, SITA’s chief technology officer, said in the statement. (Emphasis added.)
DHS recently laid out their clear plan for mandatory face scans for all travelers to foreign destinations, stating that “the only way for an individual to ensure he or she is not subject to collection of biometric information when traveling internationally is to refrain from traveling.” That’s right, no opt-out, just stay home.
Despite Customs and Border Protection admitting to ongoing privacy concerns over data retention (currently planned for a 2-week maximum), an article in The Business of Federal Technology highlights that a rapid expansion of biometric airport security is imminent.
Until now, biometric ID has been used or tested at 5 international airports. Although there was a clear assumption of a wider roll-out, it was unclear what the timetable was for implementation and how pervasive the program would become. Apparently, if all goes well for CBP, it will be in ALL U.S. airports within just 4 years, according to statements given to senators by Commissioner Kevin McAleenan:
McAleenan, who is facing confirmation to hold the top CBP job on a permanent basis, told members of the Senate Finance Committee that the agency planned to expand current trials at five international airports to all major airports in the U.S. in four years.
“Beginning in early 2018, CBP is working to fully scale out air biometric exit and will spend 2018 working with stakeholders to get commitment to deploy biometric exit technology,” he told the senators.
And apparently it’s not just airports. Here we see the plan for continuing the incremental roll-out into other areas of travel.
In his responses to Senate committee questions, McAleenan said he also plans to expand biometric trials to land ports of entry in the coming months. In late 2017, he said in his response, CBP will implement a mobile fingerprinting trial for some pedestrian departures at border crossings in Champlain, N.Y., Brownsville, Texas, and San Ysidro, Calif.
In fiscal 2018, he said, the agency will deploy facial recognition technology at entry and departure points in Arizona, including at DeConcini and Morley Gate ports of entry in Nogales and San Luis.
Sadly, biometric ID is already being normalized everywhere – including personal computing, planes, trains, events and conferences. In the name of convenience and the promise of security, we are being converted into digital organisms that can be tracked, traced and databased across every meaningful area of human activity.