Biometric data helps immigration authorities catch woman using twin's identification

Colombian arrested for presenting false documents to immigration authorities


Visitors wait in line to be fingerprinted and photographed at the U.S. Customs check point at San Francisco International Airport in San Francisco Monday, Jan. 5, 2003. Officials began using the US-VISIT system in 2003 to scan fingerprints…

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. - A woman tried to enter the United States with her twin's sisters passport and visa, but she couldn't outsmart the U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

She wasn't counting on their use of biometrics, authentication technology that analyzes human body characteristics such as finger prints.

The unidentified woman was traveling from Colombia, and she was caught at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport, according to U.S. Customs spokesman Keith Smith. She was awaiting federal prosecution at Broward County jail Friday.

"This arrest is a great example of our CBP officers' attention to detail and ability to detect imposters," the airport's director Jorge Roig said.

The arrest comes at a time when federal authorities are touting the testing of a mobile device about the size of a smartphone that will be used to scan foreign air travelers' fingerprints until June of next year.

"Thorough testing will ensure that we deploy the right technology in a way that enhances security, protects privacy and improves the process," Office of Field Operations Assistant Commissioner Todd Owen said.

Biometrics technology continues to expand its reach as the main form of identification in the private and public sector.

Speaker software recognition deals with voice biometrics, a numerical representation of the rhythm of the timbre of a human voice. The technology is in high demand. Companies such as the Vanguard Group have clients using their voice as passwords. Law enforcement use the technology to monitor inmates and track offenders who have been paroled.

"It's more mass surveillance," Irish privacy researcher Sadhbh McCarthy said. "The next thing you know, that will be given to border guards, and you'll need to speak into a microphone when you get back from vacation."

U.S. Customs isn't there yet. But the federal agency is under a congressional mandate to record the biometrics of foreign visitors. The Department of Homeland is storing travelers' data.

Follow reporter Andrea Torres on Twitter @MiamiCrime

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