- Bernd Debsmann Jr.
- BBC News, Washington
Activists at the U.S.-Mexico border say the government’s mobile app, required for U.S. asylum applications, is plagued with technical problems and often fails to recognize the faces of black and dark-skinned immigrants. I’m here.
The app, known as CBP One, was launched by Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) in January. Future immigrants use it to book appointments to appear at ports of entry.
This is the only way to apply for asylum in the United States and exemption from Title 42, the Public Health Act that allows for speedy deportation. As of February 10, over 20,000 people have made reservations using the service.
Authorities credit the app with helping reduce the number of border detentions, and are using new technology as part of a larger effort to protect asylum seekers making the often dangerous journey north. I’m trying to take advantage of
A record total of 2.76 million immigrants were blocked in fiscal year 2022, which ended in September, due to an increase in asylum seekers from Venezuela, Haiti, Cuba and Nicaragua.
The numbers have been declining since then, with January’s total of 128,410 cases down 42% from the 221,675 recorded in December.
But activists say at least some of the decline in detentions may be due to technical issues with the app.
They warn that technical problems could ultimately mean more migrants headed for human smugglers and potentially deadly and unregulated border crossings. There is
Rights groups struggle to help ‘highly buggy’ apps
Several migrant rights groups at the border told the BBC that people trying to use the CBP One app face a myriad of challenges, including not being able to make reservations, location failures and screen freezes before final confirmation. He said he does.
Some black and dark-skinned immigrants report that the app refuses their photos, making the process impossible.
Guerline Jozef, executive director of the San Diego-based Haitian Bridge Alliance, which focuses on Haitians and other African immigrants, said she and others are trying to help migrants navigate the app. Colleagues in the photo part.
She spent up to an hour and a half trying to get the app to recognize the photos of at least two families (one from Haiti and one from Venezuela) without success.
Erica Pinheiro, executive director of Al Otro Lado, which provides legal and humanitarian assistance to migrants, said the app was “extremely glitchy,” especially for older phones and areas with poor signal. said it was particularly problematic for immigrants using the app.
Regarding the issue of facial recognition, Ms Pinheiro said some migrants resort to using construction site lights when uploading images to the app. Map your features. ”
“Darker-skinned people have a higher percentage of error messages and are more likely to be unable to upload photos at all.”There are also factors such as internet strength and phone quality. I guess
Jozef and Pinheiro said their organization raised the issue with CBP to no avail.
“For me, it’s a very frustrating form of gaslighting because we see it. We’re not making this up and now [what we are saying] We are consistent with other cross-border service providers,” said Pinheiro.
“They answer that it’s either not true or it’s probably an internet problem,” she added. We are not saying that we are taking actual steps to improve
When asked by the BBC about issues with CBP One’s imaging technology, CBP said in a statement that the app “does not utilize facial recognition technology” but believes photos are an important safety feature. rice field.
“One of the security features of the CBP One mobile application is that individuals must take a live photo of themselves each time they access the application,” the statement added. “This security feature is designed to prevent malicious individuals from taking advantage of mobile her applications.”
CBP’s statement does not address the question of whether black or dark-skinned immigrants have trouble filing.
It remains unclear why the CBP One app sometimes faces problems with facial recognition technology, and the underlying algorithms behind the app are not publicly known. Is called.
A 2019 study conducted by the National Institute of Standards and Technology, an agency of the U.S. Department of Commerce, found that facial recognition technology works best on the faces of middle-aged white men, while black women have the highest error rates. I was.
Another study published in 2020 by Harvard found that facial recognition was the “least accurate” identifier, with an error rate of over 30% for dark-skinned women.
Several police departments, including Boston and San Francisco, have banned the technology, and Amazon has globally banned the use of its own facial recognition technology used by police, citing bias concerns.
Georgetown University researcher Nina Wang, who specializes in government surveillance of immigrant communities, told the BBC that many of the problems inherent in the technology stem from the “training data” used by similar applications. .
“[That is] It often consists mainly of white male faces,” Wang said.
Wang said he doesn’t know what the solution to the algorithmic problem will be.
“I just want to say that we need to stop using them for big decisions that have a big impact on people’s lives,” she added. It means that people of dark color cannot apply for asylum for reasons other than the color of their skin, which has a serious negative impact on people’s lives.”
American Immigration Council Attorney Raul Pinto said the photo issues and other issues faced by CBP One users will ultimately result in thousands of immigrants waiting for their chance to enter the United States. It may mean that there are few recourses because
“The CBP One app has taken thousands of people out of the process,” he said.