The Department of Homeland Security is looking to dive into the world of biometrics.
DHS is requesting information from contractors on the use of facial and iris recognition to track the departure of foreign visitors. The technology could help to DHS agents to confirm that pedestrians and drivers leaving the U.S. are who they claim to be. There’s no word yet on whether a similar system might be used for air passengers.
DHS hopes that this type of technology could help them better keep track of travelers who overstay their visas, such as Amine El Khalifi, a Moroccan immigrant who was living in Virginia on an expired 1999 visa when he attempted to bomb the U.S. Capitol Building.
DHS wants to find a “fingerprint, iris, and facial matching" system that could identify more than 97 percent of foreign pedestrians. Most systems currently average 95 percent or better in ideal situations.
While it’s a bit exciting that DHS might invest in such (relatively) cutting-edge technology, we have to wonder how effective it will be in this case. What if people with expired visas never leave—or already have? DHS would never know it using this technique. Besides, what are the odds that foreigners who have overstayed their visas would exit via a border crossing, as opposed to taking a flight out of the country? And finally, how much of a backlog are these systems going to create at each border crossing? Many are already plagued with long lines and staff shortages.
Kudos to DHS for going the technology route to solve a long-term problem. But in this case, biometrics might not be the best bet.
What are your thoughts on this approach? Do you think DHS would actually make some progress using biometrics? Or would it be a waste of resources?