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TSA's facial recognition technology raises security, privacy concerns

Guns at Checkpoints
Posted at 2:57 PM, Dec 23, 2022

Holiday travelers may notice that the TSA has been expanding the use of facial recognition technology. It's now at more than a dozen airports across the country.

The agency says it's evaluating the efficiency of this technology before taking it nationwide.

The technology matches your face to the ID a passenger provides at security.

The agency is also testing another system, on a more limited scale, where a person's face is their ID. The machine compares a person's face to a database of pictures the government already has. With new technology also comes new concerns.

"There's a consent aspect, there's a privacy aspect, and there's a security aspect that really needs to be considered a lot more thoughtfully before TSA moves forward with any of this," said India McKinney, director of federal affairs with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a digital rights group.

McKinney contends there are more privacy protections around the machine checking a person's ID than there are with the system that scans a traveler's face. She notes that the machine checking an ID does not have to be connected to the internet.

McKinney also says it's a mistake to assume the technology will work 100% of the time for everyone.

The TSA said it's continuing to monitor its systems to ensure there is no inherent bias. The agency adds use is voluntary.

"The question, when they say something is voluntary is, how easy is it to opt out? And we've gotten conflicting reports on exactly how easy that is," McKinney contends.

She believes it's going to be up to Congress to make sure people continue to have the ability to opt-out.