Homeland Security

CBP maps land ownership at the border

Rio Grande Mexico Presidio County Texas jamsedel shutterstock ID 627881870

U.S. Customs and Border Protection plans to collect land ownership records on private property at the border to supply agents contact information on land parcels that could be used for border surveillance towers and border wall construction.

The agency is adding that data as a layer on its Enterprise Geospatial Information Services application, known as eGIS, which provides agency personnel with current and historical data on border activity displayed on map interface.

The new functionality was detailed in a Feb. 28 privacy impact assessment released by the Department of Homeland Security.

In the assessment, CBP stated that information on property ownership will allow agents faster entry and access to sites as well as information that will help the agency plan for the acquisition of land for sensor and relay towers, command and control station sites and border wall construction.

The agency faces a daunting task of tracking down and negotiating with land owners whose property is near planned border wall and facilities construction. In Texas, the state with the longest border, news reports have said there are almost 1,000 landowners with property in the path of the proposed wall.

With the update to eGIS, CBP officials will be able to view a "parcels" layer on border maps that shows the boundaries of privately owned tracts of land and, with a simple right-click, call up data on the name of the owner, contact information and details about the land holding.

The data, which is public and available at county land offices, will be funneled into eGIS by a contractor using an application programming interface.

CBP noted some privacy concerns. It said since the vendor was gathering property owner data sourced from local county tax records and not from more targeted sources already known to CBP, there is a risk of "overcollection." It said there is also a risk of the data being used inappropriately or exploited, but users have undergone background checks, and the data is restricted to "need to know" personnel. CBP will also retain audit logs of individual user's activities.

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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