The next time you go to the airport you might notice something different as part of the security process: A machine scanning your face to verify your identity.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has been working with airlines to implement biometric face scanners in domesticairports to better streamline security. In fact, they’re already in place in certain airports around the country.
But how does the process work? Which airlines and airports are involved right now? And do travelers need to be concerned about privacy breaches?
Here’s everything you need to know about the latest technological advances in airport screenings, from the government’s work to privacy concerns and more.
What is biometric airport screening?
It’s a fancy way of saying that the government is using facial recognition technology at the airport. Government agencies (in conjunction with airlines) are aiming to improve efficiency when it comes the way travelers enter and exit the U.S.
This is separate from the eye and fingertip scanning done by CLEAR, a secure identity company available at more than 60 airports, stadiums and other venues around the country. (CLEAR is certified by the Department of Homeland Security).
Here’s how the process of facial scanning at the airports works: Cameras take your photo, and then the CBP’s Traveler Verification Service matches it to a photo the Department of Homeland Security has of you already. These could be images from sources like your passport or other travel documents.
This process will ideally replace the manual checking of passports nationwide.
Where did this idea come from?
“A form of biometric entry-exit was technically required for non-U.S. citizens by the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act, which was signed into law in 1996,” says Jeramie Scott, senior counsel at the research firm Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) and director of the EPIC Domestic Surveillance Project. Scott notes, however, the years-old requirement wasn’t fully implemented.
After 9/11, a commission recommended a full implementation of the biometric entry-exit scanning, but it wasn’t until 2017 that President Donald Trump signed an executive order that expedited the full roll out.