Europe: Biometrics to be enlisted in attempt to cope with migrant crisis

European leaders try to slow migrants as thousands enter (Toronto Star)

The leaders decided that reception capacities should be boosted in Greece and along the Balkans migration route to shelter 100,000 more people as winter looms.

They also agreed to expand border operations and make full use of biometric data like fingerprints as they register and screen migrants, before deciding whether to grant them asylum or send them home.

US Customs pilots face-rec for returning citizens

US customs launches biometric pilot at airports (Security Document World)

“The facial recognition software provides the [CBP Officers] with a match confidence score after the e-passport chip is scanned and the photo is taken. The score is generated by algorithms designed to detect possible imposters.”

A one-to-one search comparing the passport photo to the person standing at the customs kiosk is about as simple as a facial recognition deployment gets.

The only complicating factor is where they get the photo. If they use the photo physically present on the passport’s photo page, they will probably want to contend with the security marks and holograms somehow while processing the image for matching. If they want to use the photo stored electronically on the passport’s internal chip, as it appears they do, they’ll need some specialized hardware that retrieves the photo and the issue of “broken” passports will arise. Still, as far as country-level biometric deployments go, this one isn’t too daunting.

In a post-pilot phase, it may be desirable to use the passport number to pull the photo from a State Department database and compare that to the passport image and a live image of the person presenting their travel documents.

Secure Communities, RIP

Obama Finally Puts an End to Unpopular Secure Communities Program (AllGov)

As part of broader immigration reforms, the Obama administration announced Thursday that the Secure Communities program, which mandated that local law enforcement submit biometric information on those suspected of being undocumented immigrants to the federal government, is going away. In its place will be the Priority Enforcement Program, which specifies that those held must be likely deportable or have a removal order in effect against them.

See also: Obamnesty ends Department of Homeland Security’s Secure Communities program (USA Today)

The tone of the two headlines provides an interesting contrast. Few who knew about the Secure Communities program were ambivalent about it.

Our discussion of the program (maps, statistics, etc.) peaked in 2012.

For some things, 90 minutes is “rapid”

The FBI Is Very Excited About This Machine That Can Scan Your DNA in 90 Minutes (Mother Jones)

The RapidHIT represents a major technological leap—testing a DNA sample in a forensics lab normally takes at least two days. This has government agencies very excited. The Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Defense, and the Justice Department funded the initial research for “rapid DNA” technology, and after just a year on the market, the $250,000 RapidHIT is already being used in a few states, as well as China, Russia, Australia, and countries in Africa and Europe.

One hugely important thing DNA analysis can do that other biometrics can’t is to establish familial relationships. This 2011 piece about the RapidHIT technology mentions that the government found in one audit that 80% of relationship claims among asylum-seekers were fraudulent.

That, by itself, guarantees a certain level of demand for DNA analysis. The other use cases mentioned in the Mother Jones article linked at top are interesting, too.

Big news from Australia

Everyone entering Australia to have biometric data scanned (Australia Forum)

A $700 million update to Australia’s border management system will mean that everyone entering the country will have their data scanned and matched against a biometrics database.

Australia is well suited to give this a good chance of working. You can’t drive there, or walk there, and their stringent agricultural controls and efforts to keep rabies out means that they’re already used to being pretty careful at points of entry.

Is an Expanded Biometric Immigration System Worth $7 Billion?

The U.S. checks fingerprints for people entering the country. What about when they leave? (The Atlantic)

The advantage of biometrics would be more accurate matches and less fraud. Spelling blunders, multiple identities, and other data errors all make biographic data more susceptible to error, according to the report. For example, recently it was discovered that Boston Marathon bomber Tamerlan Tsarnaev’s name was misspelled on a manifest list for a flight to Russia, resulting in the FBI missing a lead while investigating his terrorist ties.

United States: Entry-exit system back in the news

Biometric ID viable at U.S. entry points: report (Washington Times)

Federal law has long called for all visitors to the U.S. to submit to biometric identification both coming and going, but the government has never lived up to that promise — and senators in their immigration bill this year even announced a retreat, weakening the law, saying the requirement is too expensive.

But a report released Tuesday by the Center for Immigration Studies says biometric identification can be implemented easily and at a fraction of the cost estimated by government officials.

See also: Who’s in my country? That’s a tough one.

US: Entry/exit dominating today’s biometrics news

An amendment to the immigration bill being discussed in the Senate Judiciary Committee has been all over the news this morning.

See:
Senators propose fingerprinting at airport security (Click Orlando), and
US senators approve immigration changes requiring fingerprint system at 30 airports (Truth Dive)

This Reuters piece is more detailed:
US panel votes to speed up airport fingerprinting of immigrants (Reuters)

The Senate Judiciary Committee voted 13-5 for an amendment to a wide-ranging immigration bill that would require the installation of devices to check immigrants’ fingerprints at the 10 busiest U.S. airports within two years of enactment of the legislation.

Checks currently are made at airports for foreigners arriving and re-entering the country but not when they leave. “It’s just a matter of having records we can keep so we know where we’re going,” Republican Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah told reporters of his successful amendment.

The committee’s work commands worldwide attention because it’s personal to many people because of their own travel habits, aspirations for immigration or education, or the living situation of friends or loved-ones.

It is also of worldwide importance because the United States will have a large role to play in any eventual interoperable international system accounting for international travel.

The amendment adopted by the committee would, in the event of the bill’s passage, institute a fingerprint-based entry/exit system starting with the ten busiest U.S. airports over two years.

The best framing I have read of the lack of-, case for-, and challenges associated with a decent entry/exit system is David Grant’s Immigration reform: What to do about those who arrive legally but never leave?

And in March, we wrote:

[… R]elevant to integrating the entry and exit points is the percentage of international travelers who enter a country through one international travel node and depart the country from another.

The more nodes, the more travelers, the more complex the travel patterns of international visitors, all of these things place additional pressures on any sort of entry/exit system and these complexities don’t necessarily increase as a linear function.

Of course all of this has bearing on the United States which has every challenge there is. It’s not surprising that, biometrics or no biometrics, the US lacks a comprehensive integrated entry/exit system. A couple of good pilot projects might go a long way towards getting an idea of the exact scope of some of the challenges, though. [emph. added]

With that in mind, does the committee’s amendment fit in with the idea of a “good pilot” project? I think so. Despite reluctance to call anything happening in the ten busiest airports in the country a “pilot project,” so as not to trivialize the challenges involved, the scope of a truly comprehensive entry/exit system accounting for all air, sea and land transport is so vast that it does make “pilot project” seem appropriate here.

But in order for this avenue to a pilot actually to lead there, even in two years, the whole immigration bill currently being fashioned in the Judiciary Committee must pass the full U.S. Senate and House of Representatives. Even if the broader immigration overhaul fails to attract majority legislative support, the 13-5 committee vote may bode well for the pilot on a stand-alone basis. You have to start somewhere.

‘Wired’ drops biometric fly into Senate’s immigration ointment

Wired threw the double whammy of “Biometric” and “National ID” into the middle of the Senate and national debate on overhauling the U.S. immigration system.

The article that touched it all this off is:

Biometric Database of All Adult Americans Hidden in Immigration Reform (Wired)

The immigration reform measure the Senate began debating yesterday would create a national biometric database of virtually every adult in the U.S., in what privacy groups fear could be the first step to a ubiquitous national identification system.

Organs on both sides of the American political scene — the left-leaning Daily Beast and the right-leaning Daily Caller — found the Wired piece wanting.

The Immigration Bill does not create a ‘biometric database of all adult Americans’ (Daily Beast)

The idea of the government creating a massive biometric database for virtually all adult Americans is indeed terrifying, and if the story was true, would be cause for genuine outrage

Fortunately, Wired’s assertion is false. Here are the facts: [ed. article continues]

‘Wired’s attack on immigration reform gets biometrics wrong (Daily Caller) 

Any E-Verify system that could actually prevent fraud will necessarily be more intrusive than the current system. In this case, an effort is being made to guarantee job applicants actually are who they say they are — that they are not merely stealing someone else’s social security number.

This is not to say we shouldn’t be vigilant in regards to protecting our civil liberties. There is a natural tension at play as immigration reformers work to create a system that actually prevents the employment of illegals who wish to skirt the law.

Both articles also run with a novel (to me) argument, potentially from the same source, that a face photo isn’t really biometric in nature.

Daily Beast:

That isn’t a “biometric” data set by any reasonable definition. As a Senate aide told me: [ed. cont’d]

Daily Caller:

There is also a semantics problem with the Wired story; photographs, I am told, don’t technically qualify as “biometrics.” 

That will come as quite a shock to many people who have been developing facial recognition algorithms for a decade or more and the thousands of people who use facial recognition technologies already. If drivers license-style photos of faces aren’t reasonably good proxies for unique identifiers, why do photo ID’s exist in the first place?

UPDATE:
David Bier writing at OpenMarket.org provides valuable commentary in Sorry, Daily Beast: E-Verify Will Be National ID.

This bit reinforces the point we made above:

Never mind how experts or the general public use the word, the phrase biometric identification has a specific legal definition. Under 46 USC 70123, “the term “biometric identification” means use of fingerprint and digital photography images and facial and iris scan technology and any other technology considered applicable by the Department of Homeland Security.” In other words, the government itself defines photographs as biometric identification. [ed. all emphasis and link in orig.]

Know your fingerprint terminology

Handy-dandy fingerprint terminology reference…
The definitions are longer and more detailed at the link.

What Is a Patent Fingerprint? (AZCentral)

If you’re in the business of crime scene investigation or forensic lab analysis, you have to know your fingerprint terminology. Fingerprints are complex natural patterns, and fingerprint professionals use a sophisticated jargon to describe their appearance.

Patent Fingerprint – visible image of a person’s fingertip left on a surface as a result of residue on the finger.

Plastic Fingerprint – impression left in a pliable substance, such as clay, wax or wet paint.

Latent Fingerprint – print left on a surface as the result of natural oils on the skin

Exemplar Fingerprint – deliberate print specifically made as part of a record

Britain’s immigration system since 2000

Immigration issues have been hot topics in both the US and the UK.

Visa consultancy WorkPermit.com provides a short recap of the history of the United Kingdom’s border management this century.

Former UK immigration boss says system has been out of control since 2000

It’s a pretty grim assessment. Turning the situation around will require talented managers operating within a more flexible political environment applying the best technology to the task. Easy for me to say. The technology part, while difficult, is by far the most easily met of those three preconditions for success.

Philippines expands biometric law enforcement capabilities

Philippines: US donates two biometric machines to Immigration (Business Mirror)

Lawyer Maria Antonette Mangrobang, BI acting intelligence chief, said with the biometrics equipment the bureau will now to be able to build a wider and more reliable database of the illegal aliens and foreign fugitives wanted by immigration intelligence personnel.

He said, henceforth, the machine will be used to scan the fingerprints of all arrested aliens, and the data will be kept in a database along with their photographs.

The immigration debate: Entry & exit tracking

The topics we hit on in Who’s in my country? That’s a tough one. are addressed in more depth and from a United States perspective below.

I found the analogy in the brief excerpt below particularly apt.

Immigration reform: What to do about those who arrive legally but never leave? (Alaska Dispatch)

Build a statistical measure of the border’s security? Too complicated. Determine “operational control” over certain amounts of the American southern border? Too undefined. Establish certain levels of infrastructure and security personnel? Too expensive.

That’s part of the over-arching problem: with broad dysfunction in many parts of the immigration and border security system, it has been difficult to marshal the political will and financial resources to fix any one part without a broad overhaul.

“You have an automobile that has no tires, no wheels, no doors, no engine, and then, alright, great, you put two brand new tires on it [and ask] ‘Why doesn’t it work?’” says Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R) of Florida, a key House immigration reform negotiator.

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services adopting biometric verification in field offices

Biometric Data Will Be Collected At Immigration Offices Starting In May (Fox News Latino)

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), the arm of Homeland Security that handles such things as naturalization and permanent residency, or “green cards,” announced Monday that next month it would implement the Customer Identity Verification, or CIV, at its field offices.

The new system will require people to submit biometric data such as fingerprints and photographs, as well as government-issued documentation, when going to immigration offices to conduct business.

Identities will be verified before services are preformed. This is different than simply collecting and warehousing the information. Both law enforcement and identity protection implications are discussed in the brief article.

UK: Immigration politics and biometrics

The United States isn’t the only place where immigration politics — and the role of biometrics — are coming to the fore. They’re very timely issues in the UK, as well.

WorkPermit.com covers Prime Minister David Cameron’s policy prescriptions like the dew covers Dixie, here: Cameron announces tough reforms to UK immigration.

The Guardian provides some analysis here: Immigrants’ residents permits: how would they work?

The repeated refusal of GPs, social housing officers and social security staff to act as immigration officers also means that if more robust residence tests are to be introduced for other EU nationals then an easy and authoritative way is needed of checking how long they have been in the country and what their immigration status is.

Ministers have confirmed that they are looking at plans to take fingerprints and other biometric data to be stored on a card with a photograph and electronic signature from new arrivals from next year.

It is within this context that the beleaguered UK Border Agency is being broken up (BBC). The UKBA is currently responsible for border protection, visa & passport issuance, asylum cases, immigration law enforcement, etc.

US Senate: Biometric worker ID sticker shock

Lindsey Graham: Federal ID for Workers Too Expensive (WLTX – Columbia, SC)

Senators working on a bipartisan immigration bill are likely abandoning the idea of requiring a new high-tech federal ID for workers because it’s too expensive.

Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina says cost estimates for the biometric ID card he favors came in higher than expected. The card was intended as a way to ensure employers don’t hire illegal workers.

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