Homeland Security will soon have biometric data on nearly 260 million people – By Justin Rohrlich (Quartz) / Nov 7 2019
The US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) expects to have face, fingerprint, and iris scans of at least 259 million people in its biometrics database by 2022, according to a recent presentation from the agency’s Office of Procurement Operations reviewed by Quartz.
That’s about 40 million more than the agency’s 2017 projections, which estimated 220 million unique identities by 2022, according to previous figures cited by the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), a San Francisco-based privacy rights nonprofit.
A slide deck, shared with attendees at an Oct. 30 DHS industry day, includes a breakdown of what its systems currently contain, as well as an estimate of what the next few years will bring. The agency is transitioning from a legacy system called IDENT to a cloud-based system (hosted by Amazon Web Services) known as Homeland Advanced Recognition Technology, or HART. The biometrics collection maintained by DHS is the world’s second-largest, behind only India’s countrywide biometric ID network in size. The traveler data kept by DHS is shared with other US agencies, state and local law enforcement, as well as foreign governments.
The first two stages of the HART system are being developed by US defense contractor Northrop Grumman, which won the $95 million contract in February 2018. DHS wasn’t immediately available to comment on its plans for its database.
Biometrics “make it possible to confirm the identity of travelers at any point in their travel,” Kevin McAleenan, US president Donald Trump’s recently-departed acting DHS secretary, told congress last year. The criteria used by US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers, a division of DHS, to screen out specific travelers as suspicious is top secret, but was determined in conjunction with Palantir, the Silicon Valley data-mining firm co-founded by controversial billionaire and ardent Trump supporter Peter Thiel. The EFF said it believes CBP could be tracking travelers “from the moment they begin their internet travel research.” As the group has noted, DHS says “the only way for an individual to ensure he or she is not subject to collection of biometric information when traveling internationally is to refrain from traveling.”