US border imposter identification failures

Occurred: February 2021

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The US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has been testing the collection and analysis of traveller biometrics, including fingerprints and facial images, since 2013. 

A February 2021 OneZero report based on the CPB's 2020 annual report (pdf), showed the agency failed to turn up a single example of an individual impersonating someone else at an airport, despite using facial recognition to scan 23+ million travelers’ faces at 30+ points of entry in 2020.

The findings, OneZero's Dave Gershorn concludes, 'would seem to suggest that either there are very few imposters using fake credentials to enter the U.S. or that the CBP system is very ineffective at finding them.'

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. 

In a September 2020 report (pdf), the US Government Accountability Office (GAO) 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