BORDER SECURITY REPORT – COVID-19, Technology Innovations and Privacy Trade-Offs

2020 like 9/11 will be one of those seminal moments, OK a whole year is a long moment, but you know what I mean.

It will be a year that changes everything going forward, especially at our borders. New technology will check our health at airports, ports and border crossings.

Biometrics on eGates will be standard, new track and trace systems will be ready and in place, and Advanced Passenger Information (API), will be expanded to include more information about our movements when travelling abroad.

Once again, borders will be the frontline for new systems, procedures and technologies. Manufacturing industry has responded with incredible speed and ingenuity to the new challenges thrown up by COVID-19, and you can be sure that industry has only just got going.

But much of the new technology being deployed, will inevitably encroach on cherished personal freedoms,  such as; greater use of biometrics, facial recognition linked to other databases, the gathering and sharing of more passenger information such as movements, before, during and after travel, health information, and third-party contact information.

As any cyber security expert will tell you, the moment you store personal information on any system, you have created a vulnerability, when you then share that information with another system or multiple systems and across borders, you have increase that vulnerability each time.

Whilst we are in the middle of this crisis, exceptional measures are being taken in the interest of saving lives, that is a given.

But as we look to the future, policy makers, enforcement agencies and wider stakeholders nationally and internationally, will need to decide what privacy trade-offs are necessary and of course publicly acceptable.

It may be, that many measures like an expanded API, will be seen as a necessary and permanent measure. After all travel to other countries is not a right, it is a privilege. So your host knowing who you are and where you will be for at least the first part of your trip is a reasonable trade off.

But, the collection and use of other private data will require a good deal of considered thought and debate, and that process needs to start now.

Probably, the first opportunity for the border community to gather to discuss these issues and others, will be at the World Border Security Congress later this year in Athens. I hope to see you there!

Tony Kingham, Editor-in-Chief

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