Alert: TSA Now Wants Your Biometric Data at These 25 Airports
It seems like government gets more intrusive into our lives and invades our privacy more every year, and now the Transportation Security Administration is taking things further by setting up facial recognition technology for passengers trying to board planes in many of the nation’s airports.
The TSA is currently testing the new tech — which it calls “Touchless Identity Solution” — at 25 medium-size and large airports and has plans to roll it out at every airport in the country, Fox News reported Monday.
“The way the TSA uses facial recognition is by taking pictures of passengers and comparing them with the passenger’s identification,” the outlet said.
“Typically, when going through the security process at a domestic airport, a passenger will hand over their driver’s license, and a TSA agent will place the license into a card reader to verify if the ID is real or fake,” the report said.
“With this new process, your ID would still be placed into the card reader, and then the TSA agent would take a picture of your face in real-time. That picture will be processed to see if it matches the picture on your driver’s license. The agent will then approve the screening once the picture is verified.”
Once approved, the passenger then moves on to the rest of the screening process.
“What we are trying to do with this is aid the officers to actually determine that you are who you say who you are,” Jason Lim, TSA identity management capabilities manager, said during a recent demonstration of the technology to reporters at Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport, The Associated Press reported.
Fox News reported the TSA is encouraged by the results so far and hopes to begin expanding use of the technology soon.
The scanners are in use at these airports:
• Atlanta Harstfield
• Boston Logan
• Dallas-Fort Worth
• Daniel K. Inouye in Hawaii
• Detroit Metro Wayne County
• Eastern Iowa
• Gulfport-Biloxi in Mississippi
• Harry Reid in Nevada
• Jackson-Medgar Wiley Evers in Mississippi
• Los Angeles
• Louis Armstrong in New Orleans
• Luis Muñoz Marín in Puerto Rico
• Nashville in Tennessee
• Orlando in Florida
• Phoenix Sky Harbor
• Richmond in Virginia
• Ronald Reagan in Washington
• Salt Lake City
• San Francisco
• San Jose Mineta in California
• Will Rogers in Oklahoma
The TSA says the trial program is voluntary and passengers can refuse to have their photos taken. However, Fox News notes there are no signs or notices telling passengers that they may refuse to participate, so most comply thinking they have to. It also seems likely that the option not to participate will be scrapped if the system goes national.
The agency says the photos are automatically deleted every time the particular computer system is powered down and the TSA agent logs off.
Also, the TSA says, data will not be collected and saved except when the Department of Homeland Security’s Science and Technology Directorate performs system checks and analysis. In that case, photos will be encrypted and won’t be linked to the traveler’s personal information.
The agency told Fox News that it “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.”
However, despite the TSA’s assurances that no data will be stored, many have major concerns about this newest government-sponsored invasion of privacy.
Sens. Jeff Merkley of Oregon, Edward Markey and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, Cory Booker of New Jersey — all Democrats — and independent Bernie Sanders of Vermont signed a letter to TSA Administrator David Pekoske in February expressing a number of concerns over the new technology.
First, of course, was the lack of signage telling passengers they may refuse to have their photo taken during this trial period.
Another was a typical political drumbeat by the left: The senator said they worried that “racial bias” might be perpetuated by the software.
Hacking of data was also cited as a concern.
“In addition to government misuse, we are concerned about the safety and security of Americans’ biometric data in the hands of authorized private corporations or unauthorized bad actors,” the letter said. “TSA’s new data could be hacked — we’ve seen it happen before. In 2019, the Department of Homeland Security’s photos of travelers, which are used in the agency’s facial recognition program, were stolen in a data breach.
“As government agencies grow their database of identifying images, increasingly large databases will prove more and more enticing targets for hackers and cybercriminals.”
The hacking concern is very real. After all, we hear stories every year of major corporations and government agencies having their systems hacked with huge amounts of our personal data stolen.
These systems need to be debated in Congress, where we the people can have some say in their implementation. They are fraught with privacy concerns, data security worries and questions over success rates.
It seems to be just another example of our government agencies upping the ante in how intrusive they are in our daily lives.
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