Rogers Opening Statement at Hearing on DHS’s use of Biometric Technologies

WASHINGTON – Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Ala.), House Homeland Security Committee ranking member, today delivered an opening statement at a hearing entitled “About Face: Examining the Department of Homeland Security’s Use of Facial Recognition and Other Biometric Technologies.”

Biometric technologies have the potential to improve security, facilitate travel, and better enforce our immigration laws.

 

These technologies range from facial recognition, to fingerprints, to DNA.

 

Each of these methods presents unique privacy considerations, but also clear security benefits.

 

Not only does federal law authorize DHS to use biometrics to verify identities, it requires CBP to collect biometric entry and exit data for all foreign nationals.  This requirement has been a long-standing bipartisan mandate.  Recent technological advancements have finally made it possible.

 

DHS’ primary focus is facial recognition at TSA and CBP checkpoints, where travelers are already providing IDs to government employees.

 

TSOs and CBP Agents can review several hundred IDs in a single shift.

 

As a result, fatigue and human error allow people with fake IDs to slip into our country every day.

 

Automating this process with biometric technology will improve transportation security.

 

CBP and TSA have done their homework on these checkpoint pilots and are working to build accurate, effective, and secure systems.

 

DHS should continue to collaborate with experts at NIST to ensure they are using accurate algorithms to power these systems.

 

Biometric systems advance DHS’ mission beyond transportation security.

 

ICE recently conducted a Rapid DNA pilot program to verify family ties on the southwest border.

 

A 90-minute test can replace hours of interviews and document review.

 

This short pilot found a disturbing number of cases where men, who claimed to be the biological parent of a child, quickly changed their story when asked to submit DNA.

 

The technology does not store DNA in a central database and each machine can be purged daily.

 

Amid the humanitarian crisis on our border we should be looking to things like Rapid DNA to protect children from abuse by smugglers who rent them as a ticket into our country.

Additionally, we should be using biometrics to enforce our immigration laws.

 

Recent reports have emphasized ICE and the FBI’s use of state DMV photos to identify criminals.

 

I do not believe that anyone has a reasonable expectation of privacy in a government ID photo. Period.

Police have long relied on photo books and manual photo review to identify suspects and known fugitives.

 

Effective facial recognition technologies can improve law enforcement by ridding this process of bias and human error.

 

Each of these examples uses biometrics as one part of a process.

 

Technology cannot and should not replace an officer’s final judgment. But it can speed up identity verification for millions of people every year.

 

Halting all government biometric programs, as some of my colleagues suggest, is an easy way to avoid hard questions.

 

Taking the easy way out of this issue will only increase the gap between technology and our ability to understand it.

DHS should continue to consult with experts at NIST to develop clear public standards for government biometric systems.

 

DHS leadership should ensure that its biometric databases are secure and have clear privacy guidelines.

 

And Congress should continue to educate itself, as we are today, about the way we can employ this technology responsibly.  

 

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