Concerns Raised Around CBP App for Asylum Seekers

The U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) introduced CBP One, a mobile app, in 2020 to expedite the asylum process for those seeking entry into the United States. The app allows asylum seekers to electronically submit initial claims, eliminating the need for face-to-face interviews and paperwork, and provides asylum seekers with real-time case status updates and alerts for scheduled court hearings or interviews.

However, the app has raised several issues since its inception. Lawmakers and advocacy groups have expressed concerns about privacy and accessibility. While CBP officials have ensured that user data is encrypted, privacy advocates fear that the app collects sensitive personal information like fingerprints and facial recognition data. Additionally, the CBP privacy policy states that any data collected from users could potentially be disclosed in response to a court order, or to law enforcement agencies.

Moreover, the expanded use of the app raises accessibility concerns since not all refugees have access to a reliable internet connection or smartphones. An increased reliance on the mobile app could further complicate the asylum process for people with limited financial resources.

Alongside numerous reports of technical flaws with the app, including error messages, problems uploading documents, and difficulty navigating the interface, the app also struggles to capture images of individuals with darker skin tones, creating issues when registering users since everyone must submit a photo of themselves.

Despite these concerns, CBP One remains in use and will likely play a critical role in the Biden administration’s efforts to modernize the asylum system. Critics argue that the app should not be used until the technical issues are addressed, and a more secure version is developed.

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