DHS has proposed an expansion of facial scans, voiceprints, and DNA testing that would allow the Department to force U.S. citizens and children to share their data.
Washington (October 16, 2020) – Senator Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), along with Senators Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), and Senator Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), today urged the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to abandon plans to dramatically expand U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services’ (USCIS) collection of information about individuals’ bodies, both non-citizens and U.S. citizens alike. The Department’s proposal would allow DHS to collect biometric information as it conducts removal proceedings, processes family-based immigration applications, and vets immigrants seeking naturalization.

In September, USCIS, which is part of the Department of Homeland Security, issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking that would allow USCIS to dramatically expand the populations subject to invasive biometric data collection and increase the types of data that USCIS collects. The proposal would permit USCIS to require U.S. citizens and children to submit to biometric data collection. It would also allow the agency to create detailed biological profiles of individuals involved in the immigration system by amassing data from facial scans, voice prints, and even DNA testing. By DHS’ own estimates, the proposal would lead to more than six million people sharing sensitive information about their bodies.

“Compelling non-citizens navigating the U.S. immigration system to submit to data collection involving highly sensitive and immutable information carries serious privacy risks; subjecting U.S. citizens and children to this surveillance would be unacceptable,” write the Senators in their letter to Acting Secretary Chad Wolf. “Expanding biometric-data collection in this manner would chill legal immigration, be inconsistent with our privacy values, and pose disproportionate risks to individuals of color. The scope, sensitivity, and invasiveness of the proposed DHS biometric data collection program would amount to an unacceptable escalation of government surveillance.”

A copy of the Senators’ letter can be found HERE.
Senators Markey, Merkley, Sanders, Warren, and Wyden are co-sponsors of the Facial Recognition and Biometric Technology Moratorium Act, legislation to stop government use of biometric technology, including facial recognition tools.