TSA to roll out controversial added layer of security nationwide

Turns out, George Orwell’s imagination didn’t go far enough in 1984, his dystopian novel about a society under totalitarian government control.

The Transportation Security Administration looks to be on the verge of implementing facial recognition technology nationwide, touting it as a way to speed up identity verification at airport security checkpoints, according to Fox Business.

The TSA has been testing facial recognition technology for years, and the rollout talk is “causing alarm for privacy advocates and other critics who say the facial scanning systems bring a flurry of concerns,” the network reported.

More from Fox Business:

The screenings, dubbed “Credit Authentication Technology with Camera,” now known as CAT-2, were rolled out by the Department of Homeland Security in 2017 as part of a pilot program, and involve scanning fliers’ faces at the TSA checkpoint and comparing the images to the travelers’ documents such as their driver’s licenses or passports.

Since then, the biometric system has expanded to 16 U.S. airports, and travelers are starting to notice.


The Washington Post interviewed Jason Lim, who runs the TSA’s facial recognition program, after hearing from “readers who encountered face scans while traveling.” Lim told the newspaper that  the agency “hopes to expand it across the United States as soon as next year.” He said the system would be optional and insisted that the TSA would not store live photos — it’s debatable how reassuring that is, given the trustworthiness of federal agencies these days.

There is also a concern with the accuracy of facial recognition technology, with Business Insider reporting its “use by law enforcement is even illegal in some cities, including San Francisco as, in some cases, racially-biased facial recognition scans have led to false arrests and even jail time for a Black man who was misidentified.”

Facial recognition technology is used widely in Communist China, according to Fox Business, where citizens are surveilled and government critics punished, which only adds to the skepticism.

“The TSA scanning system could be a big step toward a Chinese-style ‘social credit’ system that could restrict travel by people the government doesn’t like,” James Bovard wrote in a New York Post column published on Thursday. “Actually, TSA has already been caught doing that. In 2018, the New York Times exposed a secret watchlist for anyone TSA labels ‘publicly notorious.’ TSA critics to the end of the line — forever?”

There has been talk about artificial intelligence tools being able to determine a person’s sexual orientation based on a photograph — perhaps, science does matter — and it’s not a stretch to think that complex algorithms could be deployed to “predict political ideology, IQ, and propensity for criminal behavior,” JD Supra, an online repository of free legal information, noted, citing Stanford University professor and researcher Michal Kosinski.

Tom Tillison


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