We were invited to a briefing session today at U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) headquarters: “an information sharing session and open dialog … with external privacy stakeholders” to discuss “recent enhancements to CBP’s biometric exit initiatives” and “CBP’s implementation plans for a biometric exit system“.
Although we weren’t able to make it to Washington for today’s meeting, we have many questions about CBP’s ongoing (and illegal, as discussed below) photographing of the faces of US citizens entering the US, and the agency’s plans to expand the current (also illegal) trials of exit photography to include most or all US citizens leaving the country.
We look forward to another chance to quiz CBP officials about these programs and their (lack of) legal basis. More importantly, we hope that members of Congress and the public will ask hard questions about these programs if regulations or legislation are proposed that would purport to authorize them.
We share the general concerns raised by others about the use of biometric information such as facial photos (mug shots) for suspicionless dragnet surveillance of any travelers. The right to leave any country is explicitly guaranteed by international treaty (Article 12 of the ICCPR) as a human right independent of citizenship.
But we find it especially objectionable — and likely to be illegal — that CBP is extending these surveillance schemes to US citizens. Here are some of the issues: Read More