TSA Plans To Roll Out Controversial Facial Recognition In 400 More Airports

TSA Plans To Roll Out Controversial Facial Recognition In 400 More Airports

According to Fast Company, based on the success and preliminary results of its pilot program, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) intends to roll out facial recognition at security checkpoints at 400 more airports in the coming years. Undoubtedly, this program is controversial.

Critics of the program have long argued that it violates people’s privacy rights and that TSA unfairly pressures people to participate.

According to the TSA, the pilot program is already running at 25 airports in the U.S. with a 97 percent success rate.

Advocates claim it raises the bar for airport security.

“TSA doing its own testing and not releasing the results publicly calls into question the quality of the testing and veracity of the results,” says Jeramie Scott, a senior counsel and director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center’s surveillance oversight program. 

“Given there are over 2 million airline passengers a day, a 97 percent effective rate means there would be over 60,000 people a day the tech doesn’t work on if fully implemented. Regardless of the results though, TSA should not be implementing the use of facial recognition. TSA’s claims of protecting privacy and the voluntariness of the program mean very little when the agency can change on a whim how the program is implemented.”

“The comparison is extremely accurate,” according to a TSA spokeswoman, the program compares a person’s face to his or her ID, the TSA, the official said, also does not store the photos.

“Biometric data is overwritten as soon as the next passenger steps up to the queue,” he says. “And then, when the technology is turned off at the end of the day, whatever storage system in there dumps completely. There is no saved image.”

The agency admits that it is working toward the day when facial recognition will completely replace the need for tangible identification, such as a driver’s license.

Critics say the initiative not only violates civil liberties, but also prohibits passengers from opting out. The TSA responds that participation is voluntary and that there are signs at the airport that allow travelers to simply tell a security officer that they do not wish to participate and would prefer to use physical identification.

However, a recent survey by the Algorithmic Justice League revealed that 60 of 67 participants did not see signs at the airport and were not asked for permission by TSA employees.