Are facial-recognition software and fingerprint reading at airports safe?

 In News, Travel

One of the increasing demands of Business Travelers is getting through airport lines faster. Many tech-companies tried answering these demands by rolling out their own versions of a “fast pass” for example, Read an article about Clear, a kiosk that essentially lets you ‘cut the line’ here. However, The U.S. Customs and Border Protection are in the early stages of integrating facial-recognition software and fingerprint reading at airports. With this new advancement, some raise concern that these biometrics are not safe.

The facial-recognition program run by U.S. Customs and Border Protection is still in its pilot stage. However, five airports across the U.S. are currently using this machine to get through TSA lines faster. It works a lot like you would imagine, passengers are asked to stick their faces in front of a camera. The machine then takes a photo and compares it with a database of images of people who are supposed to be on the flight. If the software finds a match, the person can board, if not you are subject to more screening.

While Corporate travel groups have “generally” supported the pilot program, they are also adamant that travelers’ personal information be tightly guarded. In the program’s current state, all security measures seem fair, however, most speculate that it will not stay this way. Michelle Richardson, deputy director of the Freedom, Security, and Technology Project at the Center for Democracy & Technology in Washington, D.C. said “It’s [the program] very unlikely that it’s going to stay in this form going forward. For example, as it spreads to other airports, and the collection gets bigger, are you going to see other agencies asking for that information?”

Although flyers may be able to opt-out of biometric collection, the only way to be sure is to refrain from traveling all together. A few risks remain unseen for instance, even if a traveler opted out, he or she still may be subject to screening and probing as to why they opted out causing hold-ups within the line. Another risk of biometric collection is that databases can be hacked, and it happens all of the time.

For early adopters like business travelers, biometrics seem to be a great answer. However, the risk and safety factors are yet to be seen.


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