Biometric facial scanning at U.S. airports plagued with technical issues

According to Homeland Security’s inspector general, Customs and Border Protection are making “considerable progress” with biometric facial recognition technology, however, the program still faces “technical and operational challenges.”

Homeland security’s facial scanning program which is designed to track all departing travellers from the U.S. was set to be launched in 20 major airports by 2021

According to the inspector general report: “during the pilot, CBP encountered various technical and operational challenges that limited biometric confirmation to only 85 percent of all passengers processed.” 

“These challenges included poor network availability, a lack of dedicated staff, and compressed boarding times due to flight delays.”

The report said the facial recognition scanners failed to “consistently match individuals of certain age groups or nationalities.”

Another issue was the lack of certainty around airline assistance. This is important because the CBP is relying on the airlines to conduct facial scans, while the CBP does background checks.

“Until CBP resolves the longstanding questions regarding stakeholder commitment to its biometric program, it may not be able to scale up to reach full operating capability by 2021 as planned,” the report states.

If a lack of cooperation occurs with the airlines, the agency said it would “develop an internal contingency plan.”

Since June of 2017, biometric facial recognition technology has been tested more than 3 million times by Customs and Border Protection. The CBP is planing on expanding this program to all U.S. airports where foreign nationals are present. 

U.S. citizens can opt-out of this program, however, the scanning is mandatory for all foreign visitors.