Washington: The International Air Transport Association (IATA) today condemned the new US Government proposal that airlines and their employees collect biometric information from all non-US citizens when departing the country in the US Exit Plan. The US Government plan would require airlines to invest billions in new equipment and the staff to operate it.
''Border protection and immigration are government responsibilities. Airline counter staff are not a substitute for trained border patrol officers. And outsourcing exit formalities to airlines is not a responsible approach,'' said Giovanni Bisignani, IATA's Director General and CEO.
''Airlines are committed to working with governments to help facilitate efficient immigration and border protection. We need solutions that are efficient, effective and convenient. Today's proposal does not meet any of these criteria,'' said Bisignani.
''Governments need to focus on modern solutions. Airlines spent the last four years using technology to respond to travellers' desire for self-service. Our Simplifying the Business programme is moving passenger check-in online or to kiosks. Sending passengers back into counter queues is a big step backward,'' said Bisignani.
''The solution lies within the Department of Homeland Security itself. The Transportation Security Administration is already working on a security check-point of the future. Why is Customs and Border Protection not working with its sister agency to combine the exit process into an automated solution that is both convenient and effective?'' said Bisignani.
The US Exit Plan
Under the proposed Exit Plan, federal authorities would reconcile the fingerprints that commercial carriers gather from passengers as they exit the country with biometric and biographical data collected on their arrival. This will allow authorities to determine whether visitors complied with their visa or visit limitations.
Commercial carriers are already required to send authorities passenger manifest information before they depart, via Customs and Border Protection's Advanced Passenger Information System. Under the proposed rule, fingerprints must be transmitted to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) no later than 24 hours after a plane or ship departs from the United States.
Airlines would send the biometric data in a message that would contain a biometric image along with biographic data, such as the person's first and last names, date of birth, and the date and time the fingerprints were taken.
DHS would use the data to create an exit record and verify the identity of the traveler against entry data stored in DHS' Automated Biometric Identification System and the Arrival and Departure Information System.
Small aircraft and ships would be exempt from the requirements.
DHS' notice of proposed rule-making identifies unauthorized use of the biometric information collected by the carriers and identity theft as potential privacy risks for the visitor exit plan. However, officials say the risks are mitigated by the system's technical, physical and administrative controls. For example, carriers would be required to ensure that their systems and transmission methods meet government standards.
The proposed rule does not require that fingerprints be collected from a specific place in the airports, but DHS suggests that airline officials minimize disruptions by making it part of normal business operations.
DHS officials plan to implement the programme by January 2009.