The US Customs and Border Protection has submitted a filing to the Federal Register to expand the ongoing biometric exit program conducting facial recognition, to all air an land ports, and to shift the program’s focus to facial recognition only instead of alternate methods like fingerprinting. The filing will be open to public comment until the 21st of December.
Biometric exit was first deployed in 2017 and has operated as a pilot program at a limited number of ports in order to assess its viability. As part of the pilot authorization, Customs officials could only collect data from select ports and travelers. With the proposed rule, however, border agencies would be able to continue expanding testing as necessary.
As part of the new proposed rule, any individual going through customs on the way in or out of the country would be required to have their face photographed and undergo a facial recognition program. US citizens will also be subject to the rule, with the exception of having the option to opt out.
The biometric exit program was initially proposed as a means to verify travelers’ identities and prevent visa fraud, to later on being expanded to include new measures to identify suspects of unrelated crimes.
President-elect Joe Biden is expected to take office on the 20th of January and it is yet not known how he will be handling the expanding system. Until now, Biden has barely committed to a stance on the facial recognition program. A bill was also introduced in June by lawmakers to ban facial recognition at the federal level, although the proposal has not moved forward.