US govt agency invites public comments on proposal to collect biometrics from non-citizens

NEW DELHI: The US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has reopened for public comments, the proposed changes to its biometric data collection policies.
Under the current regulations CBP may only conduct pilot programs to collect biometrics at exit, at a limited number of air and sea ports. Further, it may only collect biometrics from a limited population.
The proposed policy would expand the agency’s ability to collect biometric data of non-US citizens upon entry to and departure from the country. It would permit collection of photographs or other biometrics from non-US citizen travellers departing from airports, land ports, seaports, or any other authorized point of departure.
A press release from CBP states that it has employed strong technical security safeguards and has limited the amount of personally identifiable information used in the facial biometric process. New photos of US citizens will be deleted within 12 hours. Photos of most foreign nationals will be stored in a secure Department of Homeland Security system. Additionally, CBP has employed strong technical security safeguards and has limited the amount of personally identifiable information used with the biometric facial recognition, states the release.
The Notice of Proposed Rulemaking was published last November and a 30-day comment period was provided. Now, a new window inviting public comments, opens on February 10, and comments will be accepted up to March 12.
TOI in its edition of September 9, had covered the proposed plan, which sought to expand the biometrics collection policy to include palm prints, iris images, voice recognition and in certain circumstances – DNA. Such biometrics were also proposed to be collected from minors. This proposal had come in for considerable flak, on grounds of violation of privacy norms.
The press release quotes William A. Ferrara, Executive Assistant Commissioner of Field Operations, CBP, “As a testament to CBP’s steadfast commitment to privacy principles and transparency, CBP reopened the comment period to the biometric entry and exit proposed rule for an additional 30 days. We welcome the public’s input to the rule as we work to further secure and enhance a touchless, seamless travel experience through facial biometrics.” After vetting public comments, a draft rule would be issued for subsequent finalisation.

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