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Monday, July 15th, 2024

Sens. Merkley, Blunt seek greater biometric data collection transparency

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U.S. Sens. Jeff Merkley (D-OR) and Roy Blunt (R-MO) recently forwarded correspondence to Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officials to seek greater transparency regarding biometric data collection from U.S. citizens.

Merkley and Blunt are requesting more information as it relates to how CBP uses facial recognition technology to collect biometric data for U.S. citizen entry-exit programs at airports, seaports, and land borders.

The letter to CBP Commissioner Chris Magnus sought more program transparency as a means of ensuring American travelers understand the process and right to opt out of the use of biometric facial recognition technology during re-entry to the country. CBP uses the technology to capture biometric data in all but 40 airports, the lawmakers indicated, which they said impacts thousands of travelers daily.

“While it is now common for American citizens to be told their photo will be taken in order to proceed through the customs process, countless Americans are not adequately informed about their ability to opt out of this step,” the lawmakers wrote. “Every U.S. citizen should have the opportunity to make an informed decision whether to have their passport photo manually verified by a CBP officer instead of having their biometric data collected and stored in a manner with which they are not familiar.”

Merkley and Blunt have requested CBP respond to inquiries that include how the agency plans to inform American citizens of their ability to opt out of using biometric facial recognition technology during the customs process; how will CBP ensure travelers are able to opt out of the use of facial recognition technology without experiencing significant travel delays or public scrutiny; and how are American citizens informed about the storage and protection of biometric facial data collected during the process.