Insights & Analyses

Border Patrol expands cloud-based biometric identification system at US airports – One World Identity

August 16, 2018

U.S. Customs and Border Protection has begun using a new cloud-based photo matching service to identify international travelers, in the latest phase of an expanding biometric program in American airports.

The latest addition, part of an ongoing U.S. border biometrics push, marks the start of Phase II of the CBP’s Traveler Verification Service, being conducted in partnership with the Transportation and Security Administration. The TVS system uses cloud-based matching to compare photos of international travelers against previously-captured images, according to Biometric Update.

Cameras will be placed near TSA checkpoints for international outbound flights, and images will be transferred to the TVS system. The pictures are then converted into a template, and matched against a gallery.

CBP has pledged that it will delete all photos from the TVS cloud matching service within 12 hours of being matched.

The new system will be used for international flights at airports across the U.S. The system will allow Border Patrol and TSA agents to verify traveler identities at TSA international departure checkpoints.

In the event of a match, an agent will review the passenger’s information and direct the passenger to the appropriate screening lane. If the passenger cannot be identified by the cloud-based service, standard security procedures for verifying a traveler’s identity will be followed, such as checking a driver’s license or passport.

CBP’s Phase II will see it collecting facial images, biographic information, and portions of a traveler’s itinerary to expedite identification of international travelers, as well as helping to stop potential threats.

In a statement, the Department of Homeland Security — which encompasses both CBP and TSA — said collecting photos of travelers at checkpoints will “expedite identity verification and enhance security.”

OWI Insight: Biometrics are a logical, easy and friction-less way of securing borders, and implementing the technology is becoming more affordable than ever. While there are privacy concerns with using biometrics on an unsuspecting public, border security is an issue where most citizens feel comfortable sacrificing some privacy in order to ensure safety. These kinds of national security focused government border programs will only grow and become more sophisticated in the coming years — and if lines at customs are shorter and faster, travelers probably won’t mind one bit.