Get ready for your close-up. TSA facial recognition technology that’s been tested at DFW Airport since June is about to be rolled out to airports across the U.S.
In June, American Airlines launched Mobile ID at DFW Airport, enabling customers enrolled in TSA PreCheck to “breeze through the airport with just their phone and their face.” The TSA has since expanded the use of facial recognition technology to 16 airports—and it now plans to roll out the optional service to airports across the U.S. in 2023, according to the Washington Post.
The CAT-2 ID system—short for Credential Authentication Technology with Camera—compares live photos of travelers taken at airport security lines with the photo on their driver’s license or government ID card. The system supports the phased rollout of “digital IDs,” including mobile driver’s licenses.
The system was originally tested at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport before it rolled out to DFW Airport and other locations.
A ‘security enhancement’ that makes it easier to get to your gate
“This technology is definitely a security enhancement,” TSA official Jason Lim told The Washington Post. “We are so far very satisfied with the performance of the machine’s ability to conduct facial recognition accurately.”
To use the optional CAT-2 system, travelers place their ID on a machine at a TSA document checker kiosk. Then they look into a camera for up to five seconds. The system compares the ID photo with the live image of the traveler’s face before clearing them through the checkpoint.
The TSA says the system is more accurate at verifying IDs than the “manual” method used for years—by agents glancing from your ID up at your face, and back again. It also keeps the agent from handling your ID, speeding the process and providing a more touchless experience at a time when COVID remains a global issue.
If you have concerns about your facial recognition characteristics being captured by government software, the TSA says no worries.
“None of this facial recognition technology is mandated,” Lim told the Post. “Those who don’t feel comfortable will still have to present their ID—but they can tell the officer that they do not want their photo taken, and the officer will turn off the live camera.”
Some have also raised concerns that people of color are more likely to be misidentified than white people, but Lim offered reassurances on that point as well.
“No one should worry about being misidentified,” he told the Post. “That is not happening, and we work diligently to ensure the technology is performing according to the highest scientific standards. Demographic equitability is a serious issue for us, and it represents a significant element in our testing.”
Delta Airlines program is expanding the service—with only your face needed
The TSA is looking to expand its facial recognition service even more, to where you only need your face to get through security.
In Atlanta and Detroit, Delta Air Lines is testing TSA PreCheck Digital ID, which lets passengers breeze through multiple airport checkpoints using only their face. To use it, passengers store their passport info and TSA PreCheck Known Traveler Number “securely” in their SkyMiles profile in the Fly Delta app. Then they opt in to the program at check-in, using the Fly Delta app.
Using this face-only system, passengers can simply look into a camera at baggage drop, security checkpoints, and the boarding gate. No physical ID, mobile phone, or boarding pass required.
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