DHS withdraws proposed rule that would have created mandatory biometrics collection for children

The US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has withdrawn a proposed rulemaking related to biometric collection, USCIS Docket No. USCIS-2019-0007. Last year, WPF urged DHS to withdraw this biometric rulemaking because the rulemaking lacked scientific facts and basis. WPF also found that the DHS biometric proposal avoided discussion of the new barriers it would have created for vulnerable populations, including victims of crimes such as human trafficking, among others. Further, the DHS proposal had outlined a significant expansion of the utilization of biometrics for individuals of all ages, including children and infants, a collection which is scientifically questionable and fraught with ethical questions and problems.

It is rare that WPF requests an agency to withdraw a rulemaking, and it is rarer still for an agency to do so. WPF is pleased that DHS has withdrawn the biometric rulemaking, and commends them for this decision.

More work remains to be done regarding the use of biometrics, particularly regarding biometric use for identifying children. WPF encourages DHS to convene one or more multistakeholder groups to better document the science, the use cases, and risks, and to ensure the Department has heard from all stakeholders about best practices, uses that should be prohibited, and additional issues and risks. It is particularly important for meaningful conversations to take place across the full spectrum of stakeholders on this complex issue.

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