US CBP fails to identify imposters using facial recognition

Occurred: February 2021

The failure of the US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) facial recognition system to turn up a single example of an individual impersonating someone else at US airports called into question its effectiveness.

According to a February 2021 OneZero report based on the agency's 2020 annual report (pdf), the CPB has been testing the collection and analysis of traveller biometrics, including fingerprints and facial images since 2013, and had scanned 23+ million travelers’ faces at 30+ points of entry in 2020. 

Techdirt's Tim Cushing notes, 'Spending millions to deal with a minor problem by deploying tech that remains unproven shouldn’t be considered acceptable. Neither is the alternative: a system that rarely recognizes imposters, allowing government agencies to assume it’s less of a problem than it might actually be. 

A September 2020 US Government Accountability Office (GAO) report (pdf) took issue with the CPB over lackluster accuracy audits, poor signage notifying the public the technology is being used, and the paucity of public information on how its systems worked.

Operator: Department of Homeland Security (DHS); Customs and Border Protection (CBP)

Country: USA

Sector: Govt - immigration

Purpose: Identify/verify identity

Technology: Facial recognition
Issue: Effectiveness/value

Transparency: Governance; Marketing

Investigations, assessments, audits 🧐

Page info
Type: Incident
Published: January 2023