Homeland Security

CBP pilot collects data on small international packages

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Customs and Border Protection is working with some of the largest e-commerce and cargo companies in a pilot program to better track the deluge of smaller international packages.

Amazon, eBay, Zulily, FedEx, DHL and UPS are among the nine companies that have signed up to participate in the agency's Section 321 data pilot program set will run through August 2021. Technology firm PreClear and logistics providers XB Fulfillment and BoxC Logistics are the three other participants.

Five of those nine participants have begun transmitting data to CBP, an agency spokesman told FCW. CBP rolled out the pilot in July. It named the nine participants in early January. The spokesman told FCW said the agency plans to further widen the program "later in the spring" with additional participants.

The pilot is aimed at the growing volume of small packages that ecommerce and rapid shipping logistics have supercharged. CBP said it processes 600 million express consignment and international mail shipments a year, or about 1.8 million a day.

The pilot asks participants to transmit detailed data about international packages coming into the U.S. That data could include X-ray images of contents, as well as third-party data from the e-commerce providers, such as who sent the package and who will ultimately receive it in the U.S., among other data points, according to CBP's notice in the Federal Register.

Through the pilot, CBP said it hopes to find out how to use ecommerce data to identify and target an increasing number of troublesome small shipments that carry illicit narcotics, unregulated prescription drugs, brand counterfeits and unsafe food and beauty products.

Data varies by carrier and participant, it said. Overall the data to be exchanged looks to more closely identify shippers, recipients and contents of smaller packages. The agency wants identifying data on the shipment's initiator, as well as the final recipient, a description of the contents and for air carriers, documentation that the package has passed a foreign security screening.

CBP wants online marketplace providers to transmit buyer and seller name, address and final delivery address. It also wants a picture of the package contents, as well as a link to the product listing on the marketplace.

Getting all that data on such a huge volume of shipments is not a small task. To get the job done, CBP moved the pilot's end date from Aug. 2020 to Aug. 2021.

"The additional time is necessary in order for pilot participants to modify their communication systems in order to execute the provisions of the pilot and for CBP to collect a sufficient amount of data from the participants," CBP said in the Federal Register notice announcing the extension.

About the Author

Mark Rockwell is a senior staff writer at FCW, whose beat focuses on acquisition, the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Energy.

Before joining FCW, Rockwell was Washington correspondent for Government Security News, where he covered all aspects of homeland security from IT to detection dogs and border security. Over the last 25 years in Washington as a reporter, editor and correspondent, he has covered an increasingly wide array of high-tech issues for publications like Communications Week, Internet Week, Fiber Optics News, tele.com magazine and Wireless Week.

Rockwell received a Jesse H. Neal Award for his work covering telecommunications issues, and is a graduate of James Madison University.

Click here for previous articles by Rockwell. Contact him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter at @MRockwell4.


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