Leaked Email: CBP Tells Airports Its New Facial Recognition Target is 75% of Passengers Leaving the US

An internal airport email obtained by 404 Media shows CBP is changing how it measures its goals for biometric boarding when people fly out of the U.S.
A box marked as "CBP data." Image: 404 Media
Image: 404 Media

Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has told airports it plans to increase its targets for scanning passengers with facial recognition as they leave the U.S., according to an internal airport email obtained by 404 Media. The new goal will be to scan 75 percent of all passengers, the email adds.

The news signals CBP’s increasing focus on biometric, and in particular facial recognition, systems at airports. Although it is unclear if related to the shift in goals, one traveler was also recently told by airline industry staff “CBP said everyone has to do it” when they asked to opt-out of facial recognition while boarding for an international flight last month.

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CBP is changing its “biometric air exit goal” at the end of this month, according to the email. Up until now, CBP has been measuring its progress by tracking “flight saturation.” That is, the percentage of flights that had at least one biometrically-processed traveler, the email says. The change in goal fundamentally shifts the metric CBP will use for measuring its progress. Soon, CBP will be tracking “passenger saturation” which is the percentage of biometrically-processed passengers in totality, the email adds.

A CBP spokesperson confirmed the change in strategy in an emailed statement to 404 Media. “Traveler processing rates are a more accurate depiction of progress on implementing biometric exit and offers a more complete picture of how robust biometric exit processing is on a national level. CBP has been messaging the change in goals to stakeholders,” the statement read.