Facial Pilot Program is Promising
- By Ralph C. Jensen
- Aug 01, 2023
Summer travel has been difficult at best. More like a
trip to purgatory.
TSA has grand designs
to expand security measures
by implementing a controversial facial
recognition program over the next several
years. Just when you thought getting through
security was torture, as many as 430 airports
will be part of the security expansion.
Do not worry about participating,
rights advocates are outraged, suggesting
that TSA is improperly coercing participation,
yet the agency says results have been
extremely promising, all of which warrants
expansion. Unbeknownst to you and me,
this program got its start a couple of years
ago at 25 airports, and facial matching algorithms
have shown a 97% effective rate.
Persons enrolled in TSA PreCheck have
been part of the voluntary pilot program.
Now, it all makes sense. Recently, I got a
quick second look. I did not know what
was going on but played along. It required
a long look at identification. It did not seem
to match what was on their screen.
The problem seemed to be, back then I
had hair. Eventually I passed the test.
TSA says they are not retaining the details
of people’s faces. Once the facial image
is captured, it is overwritten as soon as the
next passenger arrives in the queue. Security
officials also say that once the system
shut down off at the end of the day, whatever
is in the storage system is deleted.
Wait a minute, in some cases collected
biometric data was sent to the Department
of Homeland Security to determine efficacy
of the algorithms. Supposedly, the data
was encrypted code, and not image files.
Personally, I do not care if TSA wants
to match my current face with my face
of yesterday, it bothers me that after tens
of millions of dollars spent over the past
three years we are just learning about this
slight personal intrusion. TSA wants to
make airport security more effficient, and
technology ethics advocates want the program
shut down. After all, TSA is doing
its own testing and results have not been
released to the public.
We have seen this before. Not long ago
the narrative was the presumed intrusion
of body scanners. It hasn’t panned out to
be that big of a deal. I don’t think facial
recognition is going to set off any alarms
either. It is security protection as technology
improves and proves itself. Perhaps the
concern should be some of the people who
are allowed to board a plane, then cause a
scene 30,000 feet in the air.
This article originally appeared in the July / August 2023 issue of Security Today.
Ralph C. Jensen is the Publisher of Security Today magazine.