Homeland Security Explores Ambitious Plan to Collect More Personal Data From Foreign Travelers

The department will try to gather biometric data on all departing foreigners without causing delays.

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Earlier this summer, DHS enraged the airline industry by proposing that the airlines (and cruise ship companies) should be responsible for collecting and transmitting to DHS the biometrics of all foreign departing passengers. The department also wanted all biometrics submitted 24 hours before departure.

Who will bear the potential costs is also an issue. The International Air Transport Association estimates that implementing the system would cost more than $12 billion over the next decade, while DHS pegged the figure at $6.4 billion. The airline trade group said that forcing airlines to gather the biometrics would also add hours to check-in times, slowing the process by as much as 45 percent.

DHS is facing a June 30, 2009, deadline for developing a procedure for collecting exiting biometrics. But given past delays and the ongoing technical and infrastructure challenges, it seems unlikely that a comprehensive system will be up and running by then.