TSA Begins Second Facial Recognition Trial at Las Vegas Airport

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has launched a 30-day proof of concept at the McCarren International Airport (LAS) in Las Vegas, Nevada for automating the identity verification portion of airport screenings using biometric technology. The technology uses live facial recognition to compare a traveler’s current image with their identification.

The proof of concept for the LAS airport is the second of its kind. Facial recognition technology was also piloted at the Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) in January of 2018.

In the Privacy Impact Assessment (PIA) provided by TSA, the agency notes that only travelers who volunteer to participate in the pilot will go through the biometric scan as well as the traditional scan, since this is only a proof of concept. Travelers who opt out will continue through the traditional TSA checkpoints.

TSA will collect real-time images of the passenger’s face (live photo from the checkpoint); passenger’s photograph from the identity document; identification document issuance and expiration dates; date of travel; the type of identification document; the organization that issued the identification document (e.g., the state that issued the passenger’s driver’s license, or the U.S. Department of State in the case of passports); year of passenger’s birth; and gender/sex as listed in the identification document for all travelers who participate in the program.

Data will be transferred to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Office of Science and Technology (S&T) for review. Data stored with S&T will be deleted within 180 days, according to TSA.

TSA acknowledged privacy risks associated with individuals unknowingly having their pictures taken and not knowing how those pictures and biographic data will be used for analysis. To mitigate these risks, TSA pledged to have signs posted near the scanners and on-site personnel with handouts informing members of the public about the pilot.

Activist groups such as Fight for the Future and Demand Progress have expressed concerns regarding the use of this technology. These groups, among others, created AirlinePrivacy.com last year to inform travelers about which airlines allow use of facial recognition.

Ultimately, TSA believes the technology could improve the airport check-in experience.

“TSA envisions that facial recognition ultimately will deliver a significant increase in passenger throughput and improvement in security at the checkpoint,” the PIA notes. “This proof of concept will help determine next steps for implementing further automation of the TDC process. TSA will publish a new or updated PIA for any further testing or deployment of a biometric-matching system.”

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