The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) wants facial-recognition technology and biometric scanners at nearly all airports. In fact, DHS would like to see biometric technology used by 97 percent of all departing commercial travelers at airports in the United States by 2023. Customs and Border Protection is currently working on a plan to make this come to fruition. The odd thing is that not much is being said about privacy rights.
DHS has a lot of work to do if the agency truly wants to reach its four-year goal of making 97% of all air travelers pass through biometric screening. Only 15 airports in the United States currently use facial-recognition technology when screening passengers. Customs and Border Protection has used facial-recognition technology on more than 2 million passengers as of 2019. This has helped officials to discover thousands of visitors who have actually overstayed their visas.
DHS claims that the biometric system that is in place has a match rate of 98 percent. That success rate has encouraged airport authorities and airlines to jump on the bandwagon and throw their support behind biometric screening. In fact, many airports and airlines have already provided commitment letters in support of implementing biometric scanning going forward.
Some travelers love the idea of biometric scanning because they want to get in and out of an airport as quickly as possible without encountering long lines and delays. In fact, airports and airlines are essentially relying on business travelers to be the early adopters that will make biometric screening gain mainstream acceptance. Business travelers make perfect early adopters in this scenario because they travel frequently and love to save time.
Of course, many passengers and privacy groups have big issues with facial-recognition technology and biometric screening. One big concern is that personal information that is used to identify airline passengers could be stored by government agencies or private entities. There’s no doubt that there will be some legal action taken by groups that advocate for privacy rights. However, the writing is really on the wall when it comes to biometric screening at airports. This new wave is coming whether passengers like it or not. The bad news is that travelers may not be able to opt out of biometric screening simply by avoiding air travel. It turns out that Customs and Border Protection is also currently testing facial-recognition technology that can be used to identify travelers as they cross borders using vehicles.
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