US Officials acknowledges that the biometric information collected for airport screening could potentially be used by airlines for other purposes.
The US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has just issued an update of its Privacy Impact Assessment (PIA) to provide the public with notice regarding CBP’s plans to use personally identifiable information (PII) collected by airlines and airport authorities, and CBP’s use of facial matching technology in a cloud environment.
The CBP is continuing to develop and expand its biometric entry exit system for international flights at airports throughout the United States. CBP is partnering with commercial air carriers and airport authorities that will capture facial images of travelers as part of their business processes, and then send those photographs to CBP for use in the Traveler Verification Service (TVS).
These images include photographs captured by CBP during the entry inspection, photographs from US passports and US visas, and photographs from other DHS encounters. As boarding begins, each traveler approaches the departure gate to present a boarding pass and stands for a photo in front of a CBP-owned camera , which is connected to the cloud via a secure, encrypted connection.
CBP will match the images against previously captured photos by using a cloud environment.
Because it’s a partner program, there’s "a risk that commercial air carriers will use the photographs for purposes beyond departure verification".
Partnering with airlines
By partnering with stakeholders on a voluntary basis and using biometric technologies, CBP is facilitating a large scale transformation of air travel that will make air travel:
- more secure, by providing increased certainty as to the identity of airline travelers at multiple points in the travel process;
- more predictable, by establishing a clear, easily-understood boarding process, and
- able to build additional integrity to the immigration system by better identifying which foreign nationals are violating the terms of their admission to the United States, and by providing the capability for immediate action when that occurs.
Can the airlines resist the temptation?
“There is a risk that approved partners will use biometric images collected under the [service] for a purpose other than identity verification,” CBP acknowledges in their personally identifiable information (PII).
Because it’s a partner program, there’s “a risk that commercial air carriers will use the photographs for purposes beyond departure verification,” the statement said, because “commercial air carriers are not collecting photographs on CBP’s behalf or under CBP authorities.”
Customs and Border Protection only keeps the photos on file for 14 days, but airlines are free to keep photos and biometric information on file as needed for business purposes. The biographical information itself is kept by CBP for 15 years for US citizens and 75 years for foreign travelers.