Over the past several months I’ve been covering the incremental arrival of biometric identification at U.S. airports and a clear acceleration in the trend.
At the core of this increased push is a U.S. Customs and Border Protection mandate 15 years in the making to integrate government databases for ID verification. As we’ve seen with airlines such as JetBlue, private companies will be merged into the government system in order to speed up biometric processing.
JetBlue is working with U.S. Customs and Border Protection and SITA, an information-technology provider for airlines.
“This is the first integration of biometric authorization by the CBP with an airline and may prove to be a solution that will be quick and easy to roll out across U.S. airports,” Jim Peters, SITA’s chief technology officer, said in the statement. (Emphasis added.)
DHS recently laid out their clear plan for mandatory face scans for all travelers to foreign destinations, stating that “the only way for an individual to ensure he or she is not subject to collection of biometric information when traveling internationally is to refrain from traveling.” That’s right, no opt-out, just stay home.
The full 18-page DHS document is posted below:
Miami International is the latest in this biometric ID deployment, now joining the following airports:
- Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International
- Washington Dulles International
- George Bush Intercontinental
- Chicago O’Hare International
- McCarran International
- Hobby International
- John F. Kennedy International
Passenger Self-Service covers developments in the airline industry and explains how Customs and Border Protection is to implement their facial recognition program:
Using the flight manifest, CBP builds a flight specific photo gallery using photographs from the travel document the passenger provided to the airline. CBP then compares the live photo against the document photo in the gallery to ensure the passenger is the true bearer of the document. If the photo captured at boarding is matched to a U.S. passport, the passenger—having been confirmed as a U.S. citizen—is automatically determined to be out of scope for biometric exit purposes and the photo is discarded after a short period of time.
That last part regarding the disposal of passenger photos (supposedly after 14 days) is highly debatable. John Wagner, the Customs deputy executive assistant commissioner in charge of the program, previously stated that he “doesn’t rule out CBP keeping them in the future after going ‘through the appropriate privacy reviews and approvals.'”
For now biometric ID applies to international travel, but there are very few assurances that it will not eventually be required for domestic travel also. And, as we have seen with the TSA, airports may not be the final destination. Biometric ID is already spreading from planes, to trains, to events and to conferences. In the name of convenience and the promise of security, we are being converted into digital organisms that can be tracked, traced and databased across every meaningful area of human activity.
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Hat Tip: MassPrivateI