Biometrics – privacy and security concerns

June 18th, 2019 by Stephen Jones Leave a reply »

On Monday last week a US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) subcontractor suffered a data breach that exposed the photos of tens of thousands of travelers coming in and out of the United States, through specific lanes at a single Port of Entry over a one and a half months period, in what was described as a “malicious cyber-attack.”

The database of traveler photos and license plate images was transferred to a CBP subcontractor’s network without the federal agency’s authorization or knowledge, the CBP explained. The subcontractor’s network was then hacked. BP said its own systems had not been compromised. Fortunately no other identifying information was included with the photos, and no passport or other travel document photos were compromised.

Images of airline passengers from the air entry and exit process were also not involved.

CBP’s “biometric entry-exit system,”is the government initiative to biometrically verify the identities of all travelers crossing US borders. which it is racing to implement so as to use facial recognition technology on “100 percent of all international passengers,” including American citizens, in the top 20 US airports by 2021.

The concern is whether that is urgency is ignoring vetting, and regulatory safeguards, and privacy legislation. Only last month, Perceptics, the maker of vehicle license plate readers used by the US government and cities to identify and track citizens, was hacked, and its files were dumped online. It is not clear whether the attacks were connected.

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