Main menu


Facial Recognition Technology: Addressing CBP Traveler Identity and Privacy Issues

quick facts

US Customs and Border Protection uses facial recognition technology for identification at some borders. As of July 2022, CBP has installed this technology at 32 airports for travelers departing the United States and all airports for travelers entering the United States.

We testified that CBP’s privacy sign announcing the use of this technology to the public was not always up to date where this technology was being used.

Our previous recommendations included CBP completing its privacy notice and making it available wherever it uses this technology.

Examples of cameras and display screens used for facial recognition at Port Canaveral Seaport

Facial Recognition Sign on Pole in Rope Off Area with Camera in Background


What GAO found

U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), as part of its Biometric Entry and Exit Program, is testing and deploying facial recognition technology (FRT) at air, sea, and land ports of entry to create immigration records for foreigners. We are. As of July 2022, CBP will have FRT in 32 airports to biometrically verify travelers’ identities when they depart the United States (air exit) and have been introduced at all airports for

Face recognition technology used at airports

Face recognition technology used at airports

In September 2020, GAO reported that CBP took steps to incorporate privacy principles into its program, including prohibiting airlines from storing or using traveler photos for their own purposes. However, CBP did not consistently provide travelers with information about her FRT location. Also, CBP’s privacy his signage provided limited information on how a traveler could request to opt-out of her FRT screening and was not always posted. Since then, CBP has ensured that its privacy notices contain complete information and has taken steps to make signage available more consistently, but updates have been made to locations where FRT is used. Efforts should be completed to circulate the signs. In addition, CBP requires commercial partners, such as airlines, to comply with her CBP privacy requirements and may audit partners to assess compliance. As of May 2020, CBP said he was auditing only one airline partner and had no plans to reliably audit all partners. In July 2022, CBP conducted her 55 evaluations of airline partners, and he reported that three more evaluations were in progress. These are proactive steps to ensure that air traveler information is protected. However, CBP must also audit other partners who have access to personally identifiable information. This includes contractors and partners in other travel environments, vendors, contractors, land and sea ports of entry.

CBP has evaluated the accuracy and performance of the Air Exit FRT feature through operational testing. In testing, the exit was above its accuracy goal because the airline didn’t consistently photograph all travelers, but it hit its performance goal of capturing 97% of his traveler photos. I didn’t. As of July 2022, CBP officials have indicated that airline participation in the program is voluntary and CBP does not have staff to oversee the photo-taking process at all gates, so this requirement will be removed. We are reporting that we are planning

Why GAO did this study

Within the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), CBP has a dual mandate to facilitate lawful travel and secure U.S. borders. In response to federal law requiring DHS to implement a biographical and biometric data system for aliens traveling to and from the United States, CBP will require traveler identification documents to verify a traveler’s identity. I have followed her FRT instead of visual inspection of the book.

This statement addresses the extent to which CBP has (1) incorporated privacy principles and (2) evaluated the accuracy and performance of FRT’s use. This statement is based on the September 2020 report (GAO-20-568) and his updates as of July 2022 regarding the steps taken by CBP to address previous GAO recommendations. For that report, GAO conducted site visits to observe the use of FRT by CBP. Program documentation review. I interviewed DHS officials.