TSA’s use of FACIAL RECOGNITION tech in US airports rouses privacy concerns
By Belle Carter // May 30, 2023

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has roused privacy concerns as it ramped up the use of facial recognition technology in U.S. airports.

"What we are trying to do with this is aid the officers to actually determine that you are who you say you are," Jason Lim, TSA identity management capabilities manager, told reporters during a demonstration of the technology at Baltimore-Washington International (BWI) Thurgood Marshall Airport.

A presentation of the technology posted by the Associated Press shows a female passenger walking up to a security checkpoint. She inserts an identification card into a slot and looks into a camera on a screen about the size of an iPad. The camera then captures the image and compares it to the one on the ID.

Once done, the screen displays "Photo Complete" and then the traveler walks through – without even presenting documents to the TSA officer sitting behind the terminal. The agency cited two reasons why this technology is necessary – to verify the traveler's identity and to ensure the identification provided by the traveler is legitimate.

According to reports, 15 other airports have this technology in place. However, not all TSA checkpoints at those airports have these terminals. A small sign also alerts travelers that their photo will be taken as part of the pilot and that they can opt out if they like.

Lim addressed concerns that images taken by these TSA facial recognition terminals are compiled into a central database. He told reporters that these claims aren't true and that photos and IDs are deleted after a certain period.

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He added that since the technology is under assessment, data is collected and shared with the Department of Homeland Security's (DHS) Science and Technology Directorate in limited circumstances.

Senators raise concerns over TSA technology in airports

While TSA pointed out that the project is voluntary, some elected officials and privacy advocates could not help but consider the possible repercussions. They noted that passengers who want to opt out could face additional screenings, pat-downs, interrogations or even detention.

Critics also like to know if data is collected, who has access to it and what happens if it gets hacked, especially now that biometric information has become more pervasive in both the private sector and the federal government. (Related: FBI has been testing facial recognition software on Americans for YEARS without their knowledge or consent.)

Back in February, five senators demanded that the TSA halt the program through a letter addressed to TSA Administrator David Pekoske. Sens. Jeffrey Merkley (D-OR), Ed Markey (D-MA), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Bernie Sanders (I-VT) penned the Feb. 9 letter.

"Increasing biometric surveillance of Americans by the government represents a risk to civil liberties and privacy rights," the five senators warned. They noted an experience by Merkley at the Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport, where he witnessed "TSA agents directing passengers to look at the facial identification scanner in order to verify their identity."

"In order for facial recognition identification scans to truly be completely optional, TSA agents must inform passengers of their rights. There [also] must be clearly visible signage notifying passengers of their ability to proceed without a facial identification scan."

The five also expressed concern about "the safety and security of Americans' biometric data in the hands of authorized private corporations or unauthorized bad actors," citing the 2019 theft of personal information in a DHS data breach.

"As government agencies grow their database of identifying images, increasingly large databases will prove more and more enticing targets for hackers and cyber-criminals."

Read more news about surveillance technologies at Surveillance.news.

Watch this video that discusses thwarting facial recognition technology.

This video is from the What is happening channel on Brighteon.com.

More related stories:

Fairway grocers in NYC now using facial recognition to profile customers.

Fashion company creating clothing line that shields people from AI facial recognition technology.

AI surveillance tech can find out who your friends are.

Italy bans smart glasses, facial recognition tech after watchdog rebukes local government trials.

Sources include:


Merkley.Senate.gov [PDF]


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