Facial Recognition Technology Coming Soon to US Airports
Since 2017, major airports have been preparing for the use of facial recognition to ID passengers. To increase security, the US government wants to ensure that all international passengers, including American citizens, undergo facial recognition before passing the airport gate.
President Trump issued this executive order in 2017 and is expecting airports to be equipped with all the technology and procedures by 2021. According to Buzzfeed News, which has been provided with documents from Electronic Privacy Information Center, “US Customs and Border protection is scrambling to implement this ‘biometric entry-exit system,’ with the goal of using facial recognition technology on travelers aboard 16,300 flights per week.”
Biometric entry-exit system is a Department of Homeland Security (DHS) made program that uses physical traits to verify a person’s identity and match it to their passport photo, a process that is described in an article by Airportfacescans.com. Passengers will be asked to stand for a photo at the airport gate. The photo will be compared against the biometric data on file, and the passenger will either have a “biometrically verified exit record” or a “non-match.” Passengers that are “non-matched” will have to undergo a manual by a Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agent, or complete a different biometric scan like, for example, a fingerprint comparison.
Critics of facial recognition technology are not pleased with the government’s ability to track individuals. However, there are other obstacles that prevent the biometric entry-exit system from being successful. A report from DHS states that “airlines’ recurring tendency to bypass the biometric matching process in favor of boarding flights for an on-time departure.”
Essentially, when US airports were experimenting with the software, it was found that airports were prioritizing getting the passengers on board in time over completing thorough security checks. The government will have to take into account the departure times and find a way to have a symbiotic relationship with the airlines they will be working with.