TSA PreCheck Members, Get Ready to Start Using Facial Recognition

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The U.S. Transportation Security Administration (TSA) unveiled plans this week to expand the use of biometric technology in the country’s airports, plans that would ultimately include the general flying public. But in the meantime, the agency will start by having TSA PreCheck members submit facial images, in addition to their fingerprints, so that TSA can build up a useable database for implementing the advanced screening technology in TSA PreCheck security lanes.

As of last month, passengers who enroll in TSA PreCheck or renew their membership are now required to also provide their photograph. Once there are enough images in the database, TSA will start using applicants’ photographs to test facial biometric technology in TSA PreCheck lanes at select airports.

TSA has already begun some biometric screening testing for TSA PreCheck travelers. In June 2017, TSA tested fingerprint technology for TSA PreCheck members at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport and at Denver International Airport. (TSA already collects fingerprints from PreCheck enrollees in order to conduct criminal background checks.)

TSA has begun testing facial recognition technology for international travelers as well. The agency began collaborating with the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) last year at John F. Kennedy International Airport and expanded testing to Los Angeles International Airport in August. The technology matches facial images to photos in government databases, such as photos obtained from passports or visa applications, in order to verify travelers’ identity and reduce the reliance on physical documents.

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