CBP deploys facial recognition at the southern border

The facial recognition system widely deployed at U.S. airports is identifying alleged imposters at border crossings as well.

facial recognition (Zapp2Photo/Shutterstock.com)

While Customs and Border Protection's new facial recognition systems that verify passenger identities at U.S. airports have gotten attention for nabbing imposters, the agency says its trial of the technology at a southern border crossing is also yielding results.

The facial recognition system implemented a few months ago on a trial basis at the Port of San Luis border crossing near Yuma, Ariz., identified an alleged imposter on Feb. 19 trying to use a passport that didn't belong to him to enter the U.S.

Last October, the port began a technical trial of the same technologies that CBP has been deploying since 2017 at 14 "early adopter" airports across the U.S.

At airports, the tech compares photos of airline passengers on international departing flights against a temporary cloud-based database populated with previously captured photos of passengers. It works much the same way for pedestrians crossing the border. Images of each pedestrian at the crossing are compared with their photos of record documents, such as passports.

The system at the San Luis crossing flagged a mismatch when it compared a facial image of a supposed 22-year-old Colorado man who presented a valid U.S. passport travel card to the CBP officer at the crossing. The man's image captured on the facial recognition system didn't match the passport's historical record photo when the two images were compared by customs officers at the crossing.

The man was identified as an 18-year-old El Salvador native.

A CBP spokesman told FCW the alleged imposter wasn't the first to be nabbed by the trial. That happened last October, only a few days after the system was installed on Sept. 24.

The spokesman couldn't immediately provide the total number of imposters identified using facial recognition between last September and this February.

CBP is expanding the technical trial of the systems along the southern border. It plans to add another technical demonstration to an exit lane at the San Luis crossing later this spring. Shortly after the San Luis trial began, the agency set up another system at the Port of Nogales Dennis DeConcini Crossing further east in Arizona.