Passengers should get ready for more possible security upgrades in the future if TSA has its way.
TSA is currently testing its new facial recognition technology at a number of airports throughout the U.S., identifying and verifying passengers by their unique features.
Some government officials are unhappy. They are worried about the risk to civil liberties, privacy rights, safety and security of biometric data, and racial discrimination. U.S. Senators Jeffrey Merkley, Edward Markey, Cory Booker, Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders have penned a letter to the TSA expressing these concerns.
TSA uses facial recognition by taking pictures of passengers and comparing them with the passenger's identification. Typically, when going through security at a domestic airport passengers hand over their driver's license, and a TSA agent places the license into a card reader to verify if the ID is real.
With this new process, the ID would still be placed into the card reader, and the agent would take a photo of your face in real-time to see if it matches the driver's license photo. The agent will then approve the screening once the picture is verified.
In response to how the trials were going, TSA responded that “the TSA has grounded the tests in scientific rigor and early results are promising across all demographics with a small sample, so TSA is expanding the sample size for statistical validity."
Passengers, however, may not know that participation is completely voluntary. They can refuse to have their photo taken by informing the officer at the Travel Document Checker podium. But according to Knutsson “in my experience there is no sign or active notice during numerous TSA screenings letting you know it's optional to have your face scanned.” He adds that TSA says that participation will not cause the passengers any delay, and they will not face consequences for not participating.
Senator Merkley agrees with Knutsson. From his own experience, not many people going into participating airports are aware of the trial and TSA officials have not been informing passengers that the trial is voluntary or that they have the right to “opt-out.”
Other concerns are facial recognition technology perpetuating racial bias, the data being shared with other government agencies and any possible consequences to those choosing to opt-out.
The following airports currently using this facial recognition testing in security include:
BWI-Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport
DCA-Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport
ATL-Hartsfield International Airport
DFW-Dallas Fort Worth International Airport
PHX-Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport
DEN-Denver International Airport
SLC-Salt Lake City International Airport
SJC-San José Mineta International Airport
GPT-Gulfport Biloxi International Airport
JAN-Jackson–Medgar Wiley Evers International Airport
MIA-Miami International Airport
LAS-Harry Reid International Airport
LAX-Los Angeles International Airport
BOS-Boston Logan International Airport
DTW-Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport
MCO-Orlando International Airport
OKC-Will Rogers World Airport
CID-Cedar Rapids airport
SFO-San Francisco International Airport
RIC-Richmond International Airport
BNA-Nashville International Airport
SJU-Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport
MSY-Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport
HNL-Daniel K. Inouye International Airport
CVG-Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport
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