TSA Plans to Use Face Recognition at Airports

If you thought the humiliation of body scanning at airports was an invasion of our privacy, then wait until you read about face recognition checking.

Part of the “PreCheck” program, the Transport Security Administration (TSA) has released details of the Department of Homeland Security’s plans to collect face images and iris scans on a nationwide scale.

TSA Facial Recognition

The (1) TSA’s PreCheck program is ‘sold’ as a way to speed up security checks at airports by enabling “eligible, low-risk travellers” to get through security more quickly and conveniently. The program is available at participating US airports. It enables participating travelers to ease through checkpoint without having to remove shoes, liquids, laptops, lightweight jackets and belts.

Travelers can apply for PreCheck only if they’re a US citizen, or a Lawful Permanent Resident and haven’t been convicted of certain crimes.

Currently the TSA collects fingerprint data as part of the PreCheck application. Though the prints haven’t been used for anything other than part of the mandatory background checks of applicants. However, the TSA recently ran a pilot scheme at Denver International Airport and Hartsfield-Jackson Airport in Atlanta. The program used the fingerprint data collected to verify the identity of PreCheck approved travellers at the security checkpoints in the airports.

This aggressive biometric checking system might currently be confined to the five million Americans who have elected to be part of PreCheck but concerns are being raised that it could be part of a wider effort to roll out biometric checks at airports across the US and develop the biometric checking so it includes face recognition and iris scan security checks.

As the (2) Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), which condemns the proposed biometric checking as invasion of privacy, states in a report about the face recognition tracking:

“DHS’s programs will become a massive violation of privacy that could serve a gateway to the collection of biometric data to identify and track every traveler at every airport and border crossing in the country.”

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