The desire for security, efficiency and convenience is a narrative that continues to incrementally condition the population to accept the erosion of privacy and civil liberties on a number of fronts. The modern-day airport can certainly test the patience of even the most saintly, so it’s somewhat understandable that people have come to hope for anything that promises to deliver them to the exit as rapidly as possible, and preferably with the least amount of contact with airport personnel.
The concurrent fear surrounding terrorists and immigrants (apparently understood now to be one and the same) further greases the slippery slope as we accelerate to a full-on police state where “papers please” is set to be replaced by a less-intrusive biometric scan. It appears that, once again, what many people believed would be restricted to border control measures for specific groups of people is set to trickle down to any and all of the traveling public.
Delta Airlines is announcing that beginning as soon as this summer, Minneapolis-St. Paul airport will have automated baggage kiosks for “priority customers” that will first scan a traveler’s passport, then their face in order to match identity to checked luggage. It is being promoted as a pilot program that Delta is seeking customer feedback for in the hope that it can be rolled out more widely in the future. This move is part and parcel of what is quickly becoming global in scope.
I reported back in January that Australia was seeking to become the first nation to implement biometric identification for all airports nationwide. And, as correctly noted by The Verge, other U.S. states and nations have begun their own programs with varying degrees of scale:
CBP [U.S. Customs and Border Protection – Ed.] began testing facial recognition systems at Dulles Airport in 2015, then expanded the tests to New York’s JFK Airport last year. Face-reading check-in kiosks will be appearing at Ottawa International Airport this spring, and British Airways is rolling out a similar system at London’s Heathrow Airport, comparing faces captured at security screenings with a separate capture at the boarding gate.
Source: The Verge
Naturally, Delta is ensuring that data and images will be limited and not retained, but at this point given the fact that naked images of travelers weren’t even properly protected by the TSA, we shouldn’t be so naive to think that leaks and/or abuses won’t occur. There could be limited hope that perhaps a private company would take better care of its customers than the government offers its citizens these days, but even that has been largely erased as story after story shows airlines treating people literally worse than cattle in some instances.
Whereas this limited initiative might be overlooked as insignificant in the grand scheme of surveillance and privacy violations, we would do well to remember how all of this started: incrementally. This should be viewed as an integral part of helping to lay the foundation of a much larger initiative to turn people into digital organisms with virtual papers. The political will is there, the databases exist, and the technology is being rolled out across every meaningful area of human activity. Writer for The Verge, Andrew J. Hawkins, hits the nail on the head when he states:
And as more people become more comfortable (or at least tolerant) with the idea that privacy doesn’t carry much weight at US airports, the use of these types of scanning processes is likely to grow more frequent.
Are you comfortable? Are you tolerant?
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