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Smile, you’re on candid camera: Jetblue passenger blows lid on DHS facial recognition program

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Wednesday, April 24, 2019

I know I am aging myself here, but after reading about the JetBlue passenger who was none-too-happy to find out that her face would be used as ID for boarding, I thought back to the TV show of my youth called Candid Camera. Now if you are younger than 50 (yes, I am less than a month away from a half century old), you probably won’t remember this show that featured a hidden camera with lovable host Allen Funt (and later with son Peter), who at the end of each skit would tell the person they are on a hidden camera show. Laughter would ensue and everyone would agree that it was all good fun. 

The difference between then and now, though, is this whole concept of consent to being on video, not to mention current comfort levels within society today of having your identity out there in a database. I mean, let’s be honest, the idea of DHS/Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) collecting and protecting millions of biometric profiles is a bit frightening, but that is exactly what the agency plans to do in the next four years, with the ultimate goal of making access as frictionless, and hopefully, as safe as possible.

In fact, according to its fiscal report for 2018, DHS/CBP built a facial biometric matching service using biographic Advance Passenger Information System (APIS) manifest data and existing photographs of travelers boarding international flights. The biometric matching service is a robust cloud-based service that leverages existing advance passenger information to create a pre-positioned “gallery” of face images from U.S. Government holdings. The galleries are smaller, more manageable data sets that can be segregated based on APIS data for specific flights. The photographs can come from passport applications, visa applications, or interactions with CBP at a prior border encounter where CBP typically takes a photograph. The biometric matching service then compares a live photo of the traveler to the gallery of face images for that flight to identify the traveler and enable CBP to confirm the traveler’s crossing. 

On exit, the matching service identifies the traveler, creates an exit record, and enables CBP to biometrically confirm the departure of in-scope, non-U.S. citizens. CBP is working towards full implementation of biometric exit in the air environment within the next four years to account for over 97 percent of departing commercial air travelers from the United States. In order to realize full implementation, CBP partnered with airports and airlines to deploy solutions to use biometric exit data-utilizing cameras (supplied by airports or airlines) that are integrated with the biometric solution.  

As a result of the demonstrations and partnerships described above, CBP determined that facial recognition technology at the airline departure gate is a scalable solution for biometric exit in the air environment. At the end of FY 2018, biometric exit solutions were operational at 15 locations, and CBP has received many commitment letters from airport authorities and/or air carriers supporting biometric exit operations. Since its inception, over two million passengers on over 15,000 flights have used the technology on exit, with an average biometric match rate of 98 percent. As of December 2018, over 7,000 Out-Of-Country Overstays have been biometrically confirmed. Furthermore, similar successes have occurred when using the biometric technology in the air entry environment; CBP has to date used this data to identify six travelers attempting entry presenting travel documents not belonging to them, or presenting altered travel documents.

In FY 2018, CBP expanded the use of the Biometric Exit Mobile (BE-Mobile) program at land borders nationwide. CBP deployed mobile technology to the land border POEs, which allowed CBP officers working outbound pulse and surge operations to process exiting travelers using the BE-Mobile application. The BE-Mobile application creates a biometrically confirmed exit record for a departing traveler. This capability is another means by which CBP can close out entry/exit records biometrically, thus, helping to resolve some potential overstay records. From December 2017 through November 2018, CBP officers created a biometric exit record on over 23,000 travelers at the land border.

The agency is also working on both the southern and northern border using biometric technology, with plans to expand the application to identify people in cars.

What is your thought on the safety and security of protecting airports and borders with biometric solutions?

SIA questions GSA pricing policy

Anecdotal evidence shows companies are being unfairly rejected
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10/08/2014

WASHINGTON—Uncertainties surrounding the General Service Administration’s new schedule pricing policies for products and services need to be further examined, according to Jake Parker, government relations director at the Security Industry Association.

Senate tweaks House-passed CFATS bill

Senate committee wants to extend authorization interval proposed in House bill, which passed in July
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08/13/2014

WASHINGTON—Bipartisan cooperation and security industry feedback could help secure the passage of a Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards authorization bill before the end of 2014.

SIA: DHS acquisitions process needs more ‘predictability’

CEO optimistic legislation will ‘pass the House in some form’
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11/20/2013

WASHINGTON—The Security Industry Association has drafted a bill that would provide security integrators who contract with the Department of Homeland Security a more comprehensive and long-term picture of what DHS agencies need, Don Erickson, CEO of SIA, told Security Systems News.

Three security companies land FPS contracts

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04/25/2013

WASHINGTON –Three area security companies in the nation’s capitol region received contracts from the Federal Protective Services to install alarm systems, closed circuit television systems and intrusion detection systems, according to a Department of Homeland Security sta

Identive selected access control standard for U.S. Homeland Security agency

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11/20/2012

SANTA ANA, Calif. and ISMANING, Germany—Identive Group, a provider of solutions and services for the identification, security and RFID industries, has been selected by a U.S.

FEMA, DHS grant for smoke detectors for hearing-impaired residents

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10/03/2012

HOUSTON – The Houston Fire Department was awarded a $168,000 grant to purchase and install 2,000 smoke detectors for individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing, according to a report in yourhoustonnews.com.

Report: Securing critical infrastructure not receiving support it should

National Infrastructure Advisory Council says public-private intelligence information sharing still 'immature'
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03/06/2012

YARMOUTH, Maine—The federal government’s intelligence community needs to do a better job of sharing intelligence information with the country’s critical infrastructure sector, according to a recent report from the National Infrastructure Advisory Council.

SCTNow raises awareness, funds, at ESX

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06/24/2011

CHARLOTTE, N.C.—Representatives from Stop Child Trafficking Now (SCTNow) had a booth on the show floor of ESX to raise awareness and funds for their non-profit organization.