US’ Much Debated Fingerprint Expansion Policy: From Two to Ten

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Summary

This information note encompasses US-VISIT’s policy alteration in regards to collecting biometric data from international visitors. The biometric acquisition had been executed at ports entry and at the US embassies overseas. This paper unveils the theoretical and practical reasons on shifting two fingerprint acquisition to ten and what vital benefits it has provided to US Homeland security as well as Department of Defence (hereinafter referred as DoD). It also stresses the particular advantages of ten print acquisition when it comes to taking national security to next level;by taking a reference from US-VISIT policy alteration.

What is US-VISIT ? 

US-VISIT is a computer-based system that enables US Government to build a biometric and biographic data repository for nan-US Citizens. It enrols the fingerprint and biographic information of people who apply for a US visa at embassies or ports of entries. It upticks the decision making process for US immigration officers in identifying and verifying a person both in ports of entry in US and embassies at overseas. It also stores the biometric data- in that case fingerprints- of visitors.

Information Note

What Has Changed in US-VISIT? 

Information Note

Since 2004, the US-VISIT system used to collect two fingerprints from visitors when they arrive at ports of entry or when they apply for visas. The program created nothing but favourable results; by keeping criminals and border violators out of US. Between 2004 and 2008, almost 2,000 non-eligible visitors are precluded to enter – solely identified by biometric data. On January 2008, Department of Homeland Security took biometric data collection to upper stage taking ten fingerprints at ports of entry and visa-issuing embassies and consulates.

The Debates

The policy sparked an instant controversy; much caused by resource and time efficiency concerns. The must-done hardware alteration from two fingerprint scanners to ten print scanners had seen as unnecessary expense by most parties. Alsa, there need to be a clarification on how these additional eight fingerprints would enhance homeland security. Further, there were time concerns. Considering how many minute does it take one to complete biometric data acquisition. After all, it was obvious that it would take longer than two fingerprint collection. However; there is a fair trade-off here. People are actually helping to enhance national security just by sacrificing two more minutes in borders and in embassies; which easily justified the case above.

The Reasons Behind the New Policy 

In response to all of the remarks; ultimately two reasons had shown in regards to this dramatic change in two fingerprinting to ten.

1- Big Data, Big Accuracy

When it comes to identify and verify a visitor’s eligibility to enter US, the first place to look at is US- VISIT’s biometric repository which contains almost 90 Million records. When the data has that much of a volume, what you search (two fingerprints) has a vulnerability to mismatch. To clarify more, DoD had a big realisation that when two fingers are searched against 90 Million database; the results might be appearing as a failure (False matches to criminals who are forbidden to enter US). This failure might be tolerated – to an extent- by what it is called as Secondary Area, where US officers pulls out a visitor to a secured area asking bunch of questions and checking his biometrics and biographic over and over again.

Information Note

In secondary phase, a legit visitor is often cleared by additional checks but by the time border security officials arrive to the secondary area, approximately 30 minutes already pass. Also, the degree of inconvenience and disturbance of a presumably low-risk passenger faces are inarguably not subjected to undermine.

Obtaining more resources (more fingerprints) would dramatically drop down the possibility of mismatch; as the searches would be held in ten fingerprints to 90 million database. From that point of view, the more data US has, the more accurate the search results would be and the less secondary area situation would be going on.

The Moral: “Less is More” is not valid when it comes to national security. Here the more is actually more.

2- Eliminating to Overlook to Latents

Information Note

ldentifying an illegal by his fingerprints is more likely to be done through a print that he already left on-scene. A print left in a terrorist camp or a crime scene may be recorded to many latent print databases. The problem here is there is not a guarantee that a “visitor” left that specific fingerprint at the scene. To illustrate the point better, assume that a criminal left his ring fingerprint at a crime scene. Surprisingly, the two fingers that US used to acquire for visa eligibility did not contain ring finger.

So that no blacklist records are found. In that scenario, an illegal’s visa would had been approved and he would have been entered US.
This case can be widened into the situation for those countries who prefer to embed a particular number of fingerprints to passport chips, national ID cards, or any other travel documents. Whether it is done due to a technological, systemic or even financial reason; there will be always a possibility of overlooking a latent print( s) that could have been identified and further incidents could be restrained.

The Moral: Latent Lead to More Suspect and Generate More Evidence Than Any Other Methods Combined, So Do Not Intentionally Eliminate Them.

The Big Picture

As of today, DoD and US Homeland Security remark their movement to make further biometric expansion was one of the best decisions to tighten up the US security. Each day, US-VISIT program has been preventing illegals’ attempts to enter country without any troubles. Looking from a broader perspective, it is safe to say that ten fingerprint acquisition is not just an “additional security” for legitimate travelling, but further forms an exhaustive internal structure for databases, passports, National-ID Cards or any other legal document. it plays a significant role in preventing a country from terror attacks, border violence and yielding citizen wellness in general.

Information Note

Citing Sources [Jan 30, 2008]

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