EFF Asks Government To Dump DHS's Plan To Massively Expand Its Biometric Collections

from the one-nation,-under-surveillance... dept

The DHS's hunger for data cannot be satisfied by mandatory facial scanning at airports, cellphone scraping at border checkpoints, or the dozens of government databases crammed full of personal info it has access to. It needs more. So, it's asking for more. More mandatory collection of biometric info from millions of people, including US citizens.

The EFF is asking the government to dump this program. It has sent its comment [PDF] on the DHS's proposal, something it had to squeeze in during the agency's truncated comment period. The EFF notes this is not only unusual, but seems calculated to limit public objection to its sweeping, expansive data-hoovering plan.

EFF strongly objects to the manner in which DHS rolled out this NPRM [Notice of Proposed Rulemaking]. Despite the NPRM’s sweeping changes to dozens of federal regulations that implicate the privacy interests of millions of U.S. citizens and non-citizens, DHS only provided the public 30 days to comment on it. Under ordinary circumstances, 30 days would still be well short of the standard 60-day comment period federal agencies generally provide. See Exec. Order No. 13563, 3 C.F.R. 215 (2011). But in light of the COVID-19 pandemic that has forced EFF and many others to work remotely under challenging conditions and has restricted the public’s ability to engage with the government, the allotted comment period is inadequate. Moreover, given that DHS has been contemplating an expansion of its biometrics collection practices for over a decade, and that this NPRM constitutes 85 pages in the Federal Register, the public deserved more than 30 days to respond.

It certainly appears as though the DHS hoped to sneak this one past the public while it was otherwise occupied with a global pandemic and a national election. As the EFF explains, this isn't some incremental change to existing DHS collection programs. It's a massive expansion -- one that should be subjected to far more scrutiny by the public and their elected representatives.

DHS’s biometrics database is already the second largest in the world. It contains biometrics from more than 260 million people. If DHS’s proposed rule takes effect, DHS estimates that it would nearly double the number of people added to that database each year, to over 6 million people. And, equally important, the rule would expand both the types of biometrics DHS collects and how DHS uses them.

It's not just doubling the number of people it collects from. It would also vastly increase the amount of biometric data collected from the expanded list of targets.

Specifically, the proposal would add palm prints, photographs “including facial images specifically for facial recognition, as well as photographs of physical or anatomical features such as scars, skin marks, and tattoos,” voice prints, iris images, and DNA to the types of biometrics that DHS may require. Additionally, while not mentioned explicitly, the use of the term “behavioral characteristics” in the proposed definition clearly contemplates the future inclusion of so-called behavioral biometrics which can identify a person through the analysis of their movements.

Becoming a naturalized system wouldn't end the process. The information collected during the application process would be leveraged to provide a lifetime of government surveillance.

The NPRM makes clear that a core goal of DHS’s expansion of biometrics collection would be to implement “enhanced and continuous vetting,” which would require immigrants “be subjected to continued and subsequent evaluation to ensure they continue to present no risk of causing harm subsequent to their entry.” While the NPRM offers few details about what such a program would entail, it appears that DHS would collect biometric data as part of routine immigration applications in order to share that data with law enforcement and monitor individuals indefinitely.

This proposal needs to be dumped. This doesn't make us the leaders of the free world. The current administration may harbor a deep distrust for foreigners, especially the ones that come in other shades than white, but this combination of intrusive collection and endless monitoring aligns us more with countries like China than the great nation we hopefully still genuinely aspire to be.

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Filed Under: biometrics, dhs


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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 29 Oct 2020 @ 3:59am

    Of course, those who champion said program will be the first to volunteer their personal information and biometric data for inclusion within their creation.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 31 Oct 2020 @ 3:28am

      Re:

      Of course, those who champion said program will be the first to volunteer their personal information and biometric data for inclusion within their creation.

      Sure, just like when they demand everyone have EuroCorp CHIPs in their heads, they'll be the first users.....Not.

      They are well past the "protecting the citizenry" reason for their existence. Control is the name of the game today, and if you're not the one demanding it's implementation, your life is to be dictated by it.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Bloof (profile), 29 Oct 2020 @ 4:43am

    Unfortunately, the only way anyone is going to stop an agency under a republican administrations grab for more data is by lawsuit. They're beyond the point of caring about the optics.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Burning woodchipper, 29 Oct 2020 @ 8:09am

    Why is there no link to the comment space?

    If the comment period is closed, that's a bummer - would have been nice to have the opportunity to add my own small voice to the public comments.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 29 Oct 2020 @ 8:12am

    relax, Jesus loves you

    Revelation 13:16-18
    16 And he causeth all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and bond, to receive a mark in their right hand, or in their foreheads:
    17 And that no man might buy or sell, save he that had the mark, or the name of the beast, or the number of his name.
    18 Here is wisdom. Let him that hath understanding count the number of the beast: for it is the number of a man; and his number is Six hundred threescore and six.

    Can anyone explain to me how biometrics won't play a part in the fulfillment of this biblical prophesy? Yeah, yeah I can already hear people saying that "technology is advancing in a completely opposite direction than this fairy tale nonsense", right? Of course, tracking devices/apps and biometrics won't be used by the antiChrist to control people and commerce, right?

    People, don't believe the lie that God is mad at you -- He's not. Just accept Jesus Christ as the sacrifice that God provided for the sin of all mankind (Mine Included); past, present, and future.
    Heaven & Hell are both self appointed destinations, except Jesus already paid the price for you to escape Hell.
    {/warning over}

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 29 Oct 2020 @ 3:55pm

      Re: relax, Jesus loves you

      If it is prophesy, it's going to happen regardless of anything. Nothing you or all of humanity does will either stop or hasten the hour which no one may know.

      On the other hand, it's all bad, irrespective of anyone's prophesy.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 29 Oct 2020 @ 3:56pm

    Becoming a naturalized system wouldn't end the process.

    Small error here, i think, but an interesting one.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Abigale (profile), 30 Oct 2020 @ 3:34am

    The DHS’s hunger for data cannot be satisfied by mandatory facial scanning at airports, cellphone scraping at border checkpoints, or the dozens of government databases crammed full of personal info it has access to. It needs more. So, it’s asking for more. More mandatory collection of biometric info from millions of people, including US citizens https://igarageband.org/garageband-for-pc-windows-download/

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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