Trump Administration To Test Biometric Program To Scan Faces Of Drivers |  Zero Hedge

Earlier this month, our Immigration Group colleagues reported the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) would release a new regulation to expand the collection of biometric data in the enforcement and administration of immigration laws. However, as reported by Roll Call, a DHS Inspector General report raised significant concerns about whether Department is able to adequately protect sensitive biometric information, particularly with regard to its use of subcontractors. The expanded use of biometrics outlined in the Department’s proposed regulation, just as increased use of biometric information such as fingerprint or facial recognition by private organizations, heightens the risk to such data.

The amount of biometric information maintained by DHS is already massive. The DHS Office of Biometric Identity Management maintains the Automated Biometric Identification System, which contains the biometric data repository of more than 250 million people and can process more than 300,000 biometric transactions per day. U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) is mandated to deploy a biometric entry/exit system to record arrivals and departures to and from the United States, with the long-term goal to biometrically verify the identity of all travelers exiting the United States and ensure that each traveler has physically departed the country at air, land, and sea departure locations.

In 2018, CBP began a pilot effort known as the Vehicle Face System (VFS) in part to test the ability to capture volunteer passenger facial images as they drove by at speeds under 20 mph and the ability to biometrically match captured images against a gallery of recent travelers. DHS hired a subcontractor to assist with the development of the technology.

According to the inspector general’s report, DHS has a range of policies and procedures to protect biometric information, which it considers sensitive personally identifiable information (SPII). Among those policies, DHS’ Handbook for Safeguarding Sensitive PII, Privacy Policy Directive 047-01-007, Revision 3, December 2017, requires contractors and consultants to protect SPII to prevent identity theft or other adverse consequences, such as privacy incidents, compromise, or misuse of data information on them.

Despite these policies, the DHS subcontractor engaged to support the pilot directly violated DHS security and privacy protocols when it downloaded SPII, including traveler images, from an unencrypted device and stored it on its own network. The subcontractor obtained access to this data between August 2018 and January 2019 without CBP’s authorization or knowledge. Later in 2019, the subcontractor’s network was subjected to a malicious cyberattack involving ransomware resulting in the compromise of 184,000 facial images of cross-border travelers collected through a pilot program, at least 19 of which were posted on the dark web.

As one of our 10 Steps for Tackling Data Privacy and Security Laws, “Vendors – trust but verify” is critical. For DHS, its failure to do so may damage the public’s trust resulting in travelers’ reluctance to permit DHS to capture and use their biometrics at U.S. ports of entry. Non-governmental organizations that experience a similar situation with one of their vendors face an analogous loss of trust, as well as adverse impacts on business, along with compliance enforcement and litigation risks.

Among the recommendations CBP made following the breach was to ensure implementation of USB device restrictions and to apply enhanced encryption methods. CBP also sent a memo requiring all IT contractors to sign statements guaranteeing compliance with contract terms related to IT and data security.  Like DHS, more organizations are developing written policies and procedures following risk assessments and other best practices. However, it is not enough to prepare and adopt policies, implementation is key.

A growing body of law in the United States requires not only the safeguarding of personal information, including biometric information, by organizations that own it, but also by the third-party service providers that process it on behalf of the owners. Carefully and consistently managing vendors and their access, use, disclosure, and safeguarding of personal information is a critical part of any written information security program.

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Photo of Joseph J. Lazzarotti Joseph J. Lazzarotti

Joseph J. Lazzarotti is a principal in the Berkeley Heights, New Jersey, office of Jackson Lewis P.C. He founded and currently co-leads the firm’s Privacy, Data and Cybersecurity practice group, edits the firm’s Privacy Blog, and is a Certified Information Privacy Professional (CIPP)…

Joseph J. Lazzarotti is a principal in the Berkeley Heights, New Jersey, office of Jackson Lewis P.C. He founded and currently co-leads the firm’s Privacy, Data and Cybersecurity practice group, edits the firm’s Privacy Blog, and is a Certified Information Privacy Professional (CIPP) with the International Association of Privacy Professionals. Trained as an employee benefits lawyer, focused on compliance, Joe also is a member of the firm’s Employee Benefits practice group.

In short, his practice focuses on the matrix of laws governing the privacy, security, and management of data, as well as the impact and regulation of social media. He also counsels companies on compliance, fiduciary, taxation, and administrative matters with respect to employee benefit plans.

Privacy and cybersecurity experience – Joe counsels multinational, national and regional companies in all industries on the broad array of laws, regulations, best practices, and preventive safeguards. The following are examples of areas of focus in his practice:

  • Advising health care providers, business associates, and group health plan sponsors concerning HIPAA/HITECH compliance, including risk assessments, policies and procedures, incident response plan development, vendor assessment and management programs, and training.
  • Coached hundreds of companies through the investigation, remediation, notification, and overall response to data breaches of all kinds – PHI, PII, payment card, etc.
  • Helping organizations address questions about the application, implementation, and overall compliance with European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and, in particular, its implications in the U.S., together with preparing for the California Consumer Privacy Act.
  • Working with organizations to develop and implement video, audio, and data-driven monitoring and surveillance programs. For instance, in the transportation and related industries, Joe has worked with numerous clients on fleet management programs involving the use of telematics, dash-cams, event data recorders (EDR), and related technologies. He also has advised many clients in the use of biometrics including with regard to consent, data security, and retention issues under BIPA and other laws.
  • Assisting clients with growing state data security mandates to safeguard personal information, including steering clients through detailed risk assessments and converting those assessments into practical “best practice” risk management solutions, including written information security programs (WISPs). Related work includes compliance advice concerning FTC Act, Regulation S-P, GLBA, and New York Reg. 500.
  • Advising clients about best practices for electronic communications, including in social media, as well as when communicating under a “bring your own device” (BYOD) or “company owned personally enabled device” (COPE) environment.
  • Conducting various levels of privacy and data security training for executives and employees
  • Supports organizations through mergers, acquisitions, and reorganizations with regard to the handling of employee and customer data, and the safeguarding of that data during the transaction.
  • Representing organizations in matters involving inquiries into privacy and data security compliance before federal and state agencies including the HHS Office of Civil Rights, Federal Trade Commission, and various state Attorneys General.

Benefits counseling experience – Joe’s work in the benefits counseling area covers many areas of employee benefits law. Below are some examples of that work:

  • As part of the Firm’s Health Care Reform Team, he advises employers and plan sponsors regarding the establishment, administration and operation of fully insured and self-funded health and welfare plans to comply with ERISA, IRC, ACA/PPACA, HIPAA, COBRA, ADA, GINA, and other related laws.
  • Guiding clients through the selection of plan service providers, along with negotiating service agreements with vendors to address plan compliance and operations, while leveraging data security experience to ensure plan data is safeguarded.
  • Counsels plan sponsors on day-to-day compliance and administrative issues affecting plans.
  • Assists in the design and drafting of benefit plan documents, including severance and fringe benefit plans.
  • Advises plan sponsors concerning employee benefit plan operation, administration and correcting errors in operation.

Joe speaks and writes regularly on current employee benefits and data privacy and cybersecurity topics and his work has been published in leading business and legal journals and media outlets, such as The Washington Post, Inside Counsel, Bloomberg, The National Law Journal, Financial Times, Business Insurance, HR Magazine and NPR, as well as the ABA Journal, The American Lawyer, Law360, Bender’s Labor and Employment Bulletin, the Australian Privacy Law Bulletin and the Privacy, and Data Security Law Journal.

Joe served as a judicial law clerk for the Honorable Laura Denvir Stith on the Missouri Court of Appeals.