How many hypocrites has technology identified?
Since the deployment, in almost the first three years, mainly in the air passenger environment and to some extent in the ocean area, we have identified about 300 imposters using the technology. That doesn’t mean we wouldn’t have known them otherwise. Last year, at a pedestrian land crossing on the southern land border, about 1,000 to 1,100 were apprehended.
Critics fear the digital system will be used for surveillance. How do you ensure privacy?
Our business use case is to identify individuals at a time and place where they are usually expected to present themselves for identity verification. We are not dragging images and scraping social media. Individuals are submitting passports and we have a treasure trove to tap and create in the gallery before their arrival using US passport photos and photos of people who have applied for visas. We therefore build these galleries on the basis of information already provided for identity verification in airports and marine environments. We match it with the information we have.
And we make sure there is secure encryption. When a gallery is created, the photo is not attached to any information and cannot be reverse engineered for tampering. The design is based on the privacy measures we knew it should be in place. Images for U.S. citizens are kept for less than 12 hours and often much less.
How are you handling the risk of unconscious bias in programming, which can lead to higher rates of error for some groups, including people of color?
It’s definitely something we’re very tuned into. We have partnered with the National Institute of Standards and Technology to provide information on the program. Our high-performance algorithms show virtually no obvious difference when it comes to demographics.
How are tourists notified that they may dislike?
We post signals at all ports of entry. Individuals who dislike need to notify the officer at the time of inspection. It will then return to the manual process.
Is there technology at all border posts?
We have turned it into pedestrian alleys at the land borders. In an airy atmosphere, we cover about 99 percent with easy arrival. The boundary of the land is the final boundary. We have just completed a 120-day pilot in Car Lane at Hidalgo, Texas and we will evaluate the result. At cruise terminals, we are in the 90 percent range. We are working with nine major carriers at eight Port of Entry in Florida, including Miami, Port Canaveral and Port Everglades.
How would you address biometric skeptics?
We welcome verification from privacy advocacy groups. We want to be able to tell and share stories about the investments we’ve made in terms of privacy. There is a lot of myth and a lot of misinformation, which confuses what we do with surveillance. Whenever new technology is introduced, there are always legitimate concerns. We welcome those questions. They help us respond better when we are building these systems.
Elaine Glusek writes the Froogle Traveler column. Follow him on Instagram eglusac,