TSA Continues Facial Recognition Rollout at Airports
- TSA has tested facial recognition technology at select airports for several years to automate identity verification.
- TSA is exploring facial recognition technology to modernize the screening experience for travelers and automate identity verification at checkpoints.
- The technology has the potential to enhance security, boost operational efficiency, and improve passenger experience at TSA checkpoints.
- While TSA doesn’t have a specific timeline to finish the rollout, the plan is to have the technology in major airports in the country.
- The technology is, however, raising concerns with stakeholders who claim that the government may be overstepping in surveillance.
The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) — continues to roll out facial recognition at airports. Traditionally, when you go through the airport’s security check, you must show your boarding pass and ID for verification, but things are set to change.
If you sign up for TSA PreCheck, you’ll no longer require a boarding pass. Instead, TSA will only ask for your ID — which they’ll stick into a machine and then ask you to look into the camera for verification.
The Rise of Facial Recognition in Airports
For several years, TSA has used facial recognition technology at airports to allow international travelers to board faster. However, the transportation security body is shifting its focus to implementing the technology for domestic use.
TSA is quickly rolling out airport facial recognition systems to speed up travelers’ security check-up process. While the technology will reduce passengers’ time at the check line, TSA is not yet imposing it on the masses. Only those who have signed up for TSA PreCheck and use the Pre-line at the airport can use the facial recognition system.
A Priority on Larger Airports
TSA’s facial recognition is not available in every airport, but it will start with the major ones. The transport security body first targets large-traffic airports before moving to other airports. With time, the technology will be available at every TSA Pre line across the country.
Adopting facial recognition technology in airports will speed check-in and boarding. Normally, when you go through the TSA line, you’ll spend about three to four minutes getting cleared. With the facial recognition system, you might spend less than 10 seconds to get you through.
While the technology will prove important in large airports to clear the traffic, those traveling via smaller airports might not find the need to opt into the TSA PreCheck program.
Privacy Invasion Concerns
Observers are raising eyebrows, suggesting that facial recognition technology is overstepping in government surveillance. People worry that the government will know more than what it’s supposed to, thus invading their privacy.
Stakeholders argue that the purpose of TSA is to ensure nobody, no matter who they are, shouldn’t be able to carry dangerous material on airplanes. However, people argue that doubling down on facial recognition is a misaligned approach to airline security.
Using TSA’s Facial Recognition System at Check Line is Optional
TSA says that using the facial recognition system is voluntary to counter the privacy implications. You can opt-out of the TSA facial recognition system if you don’t want your photo taken and go for the conventional screening process.
However, like any other thing you accept in life without really questioning, most people will go with the flow when it comes to TSA facial recognition.
Facial Recognition in The Private Sector
The facial recognition technology doesn’t only apply to TSA. Several private companies are looking into facial recognition to eliminate the check-in process.
For instance, a couple of football stadiums are looking at facial recognition as a way for season ticket holders to get through the line faster rather than standing in line and going through the normal check-in process.
If you’re a season ticket holder, the stadium check-in system will have your information and help you go through the check line faster using facial recognition, eliminating the need to show tickets upon entry.
The Religion-Based Obstacle to Implementation of Facial Recognition System
While many will want to roll into the TSA PreCheck program, it poses a limitation for Muslim women, who wear the hijab that covers most of their faces except their eyes. Implementing facial recognition for such women would be a major problem, and they may not be willing to submit to facial recognition.
The Question of Whether Facial Recognition Will be Mandatory in Future
No doubt that TSA making facial recognition mandatory is a distinct possibility. As the technology becomes more accepted by the public and fewer complaints and issues, the technology might become mandatory.
TSA workers earn about $25 an hour, which means the government spends a hefty sum on TSA wages alone. The automated system works faster, is more efficient, and requires fewer employees, which translates to fewer costs— all the more reason the government may decide to make it mandatory.
The efficiency of facial recognition raises concerns about what will happen if the voluntary pilot program becomes a mandatory process. Even though TSA says the facial recognition program is voluntary, it might become mandatory one day, posing a great risk to civil liberties.
Facial Recognition Technology Going Beyond Travel Verification
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has now sent a contract for proposals. Under its Science and Technology Directorates Silicon Valley Innovation program, the DHS says it’s looking for a prototype technology that would help them with automated surveillance systems.
The DHS wants a system that automatically identifies people or objects of interest based on descriptive rules in public areas that they term soft targets. The technology could be cameras tracking all of us — people and objects across schools, sports venues, subways, tourist attraction sites, and even private businesses.
The technology is already in use in places like London, which has the most cameras per capita worldwide. The city uses cameras for video surveillance to detect the presence of people that shouldn’t be in some places — suspects and known criminals.
Such an application is being used in places like football games where there are thousands or tens of thousands of people in stadiums. In such instances, it’s easier for cameras to track subjects of interest than to rely on manpower.
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