As promised/threatened, the DHS is moving forward with expanded use of biometric scanning at airports, including facial recognition and fingerprint matches. What was touted as a way to combat international terrorism and illegal immigration will now include those on the home front, as the tech spreads to include US citizens on domestic flights. But the TSA doesn’t see this as an unwanted incursion into the lives of innocent citizens. Instead, it pitches it as a useful tool to speed up security screening at TSA checkpoints.
TSA says that by moving toward facial recognition technology in a time where travel volume is rising, it’s hoping to reduce the need for physical documents like passports and paper tickets. Currently, TSA manually compares the passengers in front of them to their ID photos, but it believes an automated process that can match facial images to photos from passports and visa applications will be more accurate and efficient.
Currently, TSA and airline partners verify traveler identity primarily by processing biographic data and inspecting physical identity and travel documents. The use of biometric technology will simplify the passenger experience and increase efficiency and security effectiveness.
The roadmap focuses on four main goals: 1) partnering with U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) on biometrics for international travelers; 2) using biometrics provided by TSA Pre✓® members to enhance the travel experience; 3) expanding biometrics to additional domestic travelers; and 4) developing the infrastructure for biometric technology. TSA is already carrying out these objectives through smart investments and collaborative partnerships.
Yes, the paying members of the TSA’s Pre✓ program will be the first to “enhance” their “travel experience” by feeding their faces into a database the TSA controls, using tech prone to erroneous conclusions. Other travelers won’t be able to opt out of biometric screening, however. They’ll just be subject to the non-enhanced travel experience where TSA and CBP officers ask a long series of invasive questions and infer suspicious behavior on the part of travelers who bypass the biometric kiosks.
It’s true that traveling in the US has always been a “papers, please” experience. But prior to the 9/11 attacks, this simply meant presenting a ticket before boarding. Now, it’s everything about everybody, no matter how useless this information is 99.9% of the time. Rather than move towards smarter screening methods, the TSA has decided to subject everyone to the same level of screening with the same arbitrary rules stemming from airborne attacks the TSA failed to prevent.