CBP Expands Facial Recognition for
Global Entry Travelers
By Aaron Boyd, Senior Editor, Nextgov
JANUARY 16, 2020
is already being used at 15 airports—including three abroad—to speed
pre-approved travelers through the customs process.
The Global Entry program allows frequent travelers who are
considered “low risk” to bypass CBP officers and go directly to baggage claim
after visiting a kiosk. To date, Global Entry at most airports consists of
scanning the traveler’s passport and fingerprint at the machine before being
cleared to enter the country.
Going forward, CBP will be streamlining that process, instead
offering travelers pre-approved through the program the ability to use facial
biometrics for clearance, eliminating the need for a passport or fingerprint.
CBP started implementing facial recognition for Global Entry
through a pilot program at Orlando International Airport in June 2018. Since
that time, the program has expanded to 14 more airports, including two in
Ireland and one in the Bahamas (full list below).
The kiosks used for the Global Entry program already have cameras
that take photos of travelers, though many will be upgraded or replaced as the
program expands. As the facial recognition program rolls out, these kiosks will
default to using that technology. CBP also plans to include privacy notices on
the upgraded machines informing travelers of the new process.
Once a photo is taken, the image is matched against a gallery
compiled from CBP’s Automated Targeting System, or ATS, Unified Passenger
Module, or UPAX, system.
“CBP may have captured these images from U.S. passports or visas,
previous entry inspections, and/or other DHS encounters, including Global Entry
enrollment photos,” according to the privacy statement. “The [Traveler
Verification Service] then generates a biometric template for each gallery
photograph and stores the template, but not the actual photograph, in the TVS
cloud for matching when the traveler arrives at the Global Entry kiosk.”
“When comparing photos for a facial recognition match, TVS uses
travel document photos as well as recently taken photos to improve accuracy
because up to date photos may match better than document photos,” the privacy
Per the impact statement, the shift to using facial recognition
would lower the
privacy risk to travelers, as the program already took photos
at the kiosks and no longer needs to collect fingerprints.
An important note in the impact statement clarifies that enrollees
are not required to use the facial recognition program and can instead opt to
use the passport and fingerprint method, which will remain available. A CBP
spokesperson also told Nextgov the kiosks will
default to the passport and fingerprint method if there is a technical problem
with the facial recognition scan.
Travelers are also still required to provide a copy of their
passport and fingerprints at the time of enrollment in Global Entry.
list of participating airports:
Aruba–Queen Beatrix International Airport (AUA)
Dallas/Ft. Worth International Airport (DFW)
Detroit Metropolitan Airport (DTW)
Dublin Airport, Ireland (DUB)
Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR)
Fort Lauderdale/Hollywood International Airport (FLL)
Houston–Hobby International Airport (HOU)
George Bush Intercontinental Airport, Houston (IAH)
John F. Kennedy International Airport, New York (JFK)
Orlando International Airport (MCO)
Miami International Airport (MIA)
Nassau–Sir Lynden Pindling International Airport, Bahamas (NAS)
Philadelphia International Airport (PHL)
San Diego International Airport (SAN)
Shannon Airport, Ireland (SNN)
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