TSA Facial Recognition Pilot Program Raises Concerns About Privacy and Bias
The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has launched a pilot program that uses facial recognition technology at 16 airports nationwide. Travelers voluntarily submit their identification for verification through a slot that reads the card or passport photo against a card reader. The technology compares the facial image captured from a small screen to the image on the ID presented, to ensure the proper identification of the traveler.
Voluntary Program: Privacy and Security Concerns
While the TSA claims the pilot program is voluntary and secure, privacy advocates and some elected officials see it as an infringement on civil liberties. Critics warn about the potential for bias in facial recognition technology. There are also concerns about the misuse of sensitive biometric data if it gets hacked or if TSA decides to use it for other purposes.
Questions of Bias in Facial Recognition Technology
Meg Foster, a justice fellow at Georgetown University’s Center on Privacy and Technology, said there are concerns about bias within the algorithms of various facial recognition technologies. Some technologies struggle with recognizing the faces of minorities.
Concerns about TSA Storing Biometric Data
TSA claims that the images collected during the pilot program are not being stored. However, some privacy advocates are concerned about the future of this data. Meg Foster believes that TSA may change its stance on storing the data in the future or use it for other purposes. What is more, she points out that despite passengers being allowed to opt out, it is unfair to place the responsibility on them while under stressful conditions.
Future Obligation Of Travelers to Use Biometric Identification
David Pekoske, head of TSA, has suggested that eventually the use of facial recognition will become mandatory because it is more effective and efficient. But critics believe that biometric data should not be mandatory, and subject to public debate and oversight. Jeramie Scott with the Electronic Privacy Information Center would like an official audit to ensure that the technology does not have a disproportionate effect on certain groups and that images are deleted immediately.
- The biometric identification market is expected to grow by 22% CAGR between 2020 and 2025, according to a report by Mordor Intelligence.
- Facial recognition technology has been deployed in many countries worldwide for diverse purposes such as border control, law enforcement, and customer identification. Most notably, China is boosting its AI-related capabilities with the use of facial recognition technology for social scoring, surveillance, and control.
- Facial recognition technology is already in use in some airports to speed up boarding processes. Some airlines have allowed travelers to board flights without showing a passport or boarding pass by recognizing their faces.
- The TSA has launched a pilot program at 16 airports using facial recognition technology to verify the identity of travelers.
- The program is voluntary, but privacy advocates and some elected officials worry about the potential for bias in facial recognition technology and the misuse of biometric data.
- David Pekoske, the head of the TSA, has suggested that biometric identification might become a requirement in the future, making privacy advocates all the more concerned.
The TSA facial recognition pilot program has advantages in increasing airport security, but it also raises privacy concerns. The potential misuse of biometric data collected by TSA, the risk of hacking causing identity theft, and the possibility of mandatory biometric identification all deserve public debate. All interested stakeholders need to work together to find ways to balance privacy and security to ensure that the use of facial recognition technology is ethical and beneficial to society.