Beginning this summer, Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers at three border crossings in Arizona, New York and Washington state will issue incoming foreign visitors I-94 (arrival-departure) forms embedded with RFID tags. A tag will be activated at the time an officer issues the form, on which a visitor records the duration of her visit, its purpose and her temporary U.S. address.
If the visitor leaves through one of those three ports, an RFID reader will pick up the tag’s frequency, read it, match the number to the traveler’s identity and record the date and time of her departure. The system can tell if the visitor overstayed the amount of time issued on her visa. The pilot is scheduled to end in spring 2006. US-Visit officials declined to give preliminary results.
But US-Visit CIO Scott Hastings has his concerns about how viable the RFID solution will be. The privacy concerns may be difficult to overcome, given public fears about the ease with which RFIDs can be used to track people’s movements. Although US-Visit has no plans to track visitors while they are in the country, Hastings says, “If we had a hard time with privacy over taking fingerprints, RFID is going to be that much harder. It’s just too new,” Hastings says. “I’m not sure if this is the way we will end up going.”