Mace sponsors bill to push CBP to use blockchain at the border

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Customs and Border Protection has already been doing research into how the tech could be used for its mission.

Rep. Nancy Mace, R-S.C., is introducing a new bill Tuesday that would require the Secretary of Homeland Security to use a blockchain system at the U.S. border. 

The lawmaker, who chairs a House Oversight subcommittee focused on IT, says that the tech could help with Department of Homeland Security activities like the tracking and management of goods at the border. Rep. Byron Donalds, R-Fla., is cosponsoring the bill, according to a Mace spokesperson.

Blockchain is a distributed ledger technology that uses cryptography for security and validation of data and transactions. U.S. Customs and Border Protection has already been doing research on the potential use of the tech. 

A 2020 CBP proof of concept, for example, focused on the use of blockchain technology to protect intellectual property rights on American imports by giving CBP a secure way to exchange data with manufacturers, retailers, rights holders and importers, ultimately reducing the number of physical examinations.

"The CBP's initial findings and prototypes have shown significant promise in using blockchain to secure and streamline border operations," Mace said in a statement. "With this new legislation, we intend to transform these early initiatives into a comprehensive, secure, and efficient infrastructure that will address the crisis at our southern border."

Mace’s new bill would require CBP to set up a public blockchain platform to be used for border security operations. 

The system would house data like biometrics, visa information and customs documentation, per the bill, with the goal of CBP using the platform to verify travel and identity documents, improve the tracking of goods through customs, manage border control personnel deployment and share data across relevant agencies in real-time. 

DHS has identified a host of use cases for the technology, including using blockchain to issue paper-based credentials digitally and to create records and audits that DHS says couldn’t be spoofed but could be publicly verified. 

Last year, CBP signaled interest in evaluating distributed ledger technology that could be used in its efforts to modernize the platform that handles trade processing for the agency. Among the benefits of the tech are the simultaneous access, validation and updating of transactions, the agency said in the sources sought notice.

If the new proposal were to make it into law, CBP would also be required to set up an oversight system for the blockchain tech, and DHS would be required to report to Congress on the platform’s implementation.