TSA Announces Plans To Subject Domestic Travelers To Biometric Screening

from the to-secure-its-'position-as-a-global-leader-in-aviation-security'-hahahah dept

As promised/threatened, the DHS is moving forward with expanded use of biometric scanning at airports, including facial recognition and fingerprint matches. What was touted as a way to combat international terrorism and illegal immigration will now include those on the home front, as the tech spreads to include US citizens on domestic flights. But the TSA doesn’t see this as an unwanted incursion into the lives of innocent citizens. Instead, it pitches it as a useful tool to speed up security screening at TSA checkpoints.

TSA says that by moving toward facial recognition technology in a time where travel volume is rising, it’s hoping to reduce the need for physical documents like passports and paper tickets. Currently, TSA manually compares the passengers in front of them to their ID photos, but it believes an automated process that can match facial images to photos from passports and visa applications will be more accurate and efficient.

The TSA expects paying customers to foot the bill for the expansion — the same citizens it’s been selling civil liberties back to for years. From the TSA’s “roadmap” for expanded biometric screening:

Currently, TSA and airline partners verify traveler identity primarily by processing biographic data and inspecting physical identity and travel documents. The use of biometric technology will simplify the passenger experience and increase efficiency and security effectiveness.

The roadmap focuses on four main goals: 1) partnering with U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) on biometrics for international travelers; 2) using biometrics provided by TSA Pre?® members to enhance the travel experience; 3) expanding biometrics to additional domestic travelers; and 4) developing the infrastructure for biometric technology. TSA is already carrying out these objectives through smart investments and collaborative partnerships.

Yes, the paying members of the TSA’s Pre? program will be the first to “enhance” their “travel experience” by feeding their faces into a database the TSA controls, using tech prone to erroneous conclusions. Other travelers won’t be able to opt out of biometric screening, however. They’ll just be subject to the non-enhanced travel experience where TSA and CBP officers ask a long series of invasive questions and infer suspicious behavior on the part of travelers who bypass the biometric kiosks.

It’s true that traveling in the US has always been a “papers, please” experience. But prior to the 9/11 attacks, this simply meant presenting a ticket before boarding. Now, it’s everything about everybody, no matter how useless this information is 99.9% of the time. Rather than move towards smarter screening methods, the TSA has decided to subject everyone to the same level of screening with the same arbitrary rules stemming from airborne attacks the TSA failed to prevent.

The TSA pitches this as a paperless airport, but it’s really just another way for the government to compile a massive database of identifying info and of citizens’ movements. The DHS likes to talk about its 96% accuracy target, but has released no information about actual accuracy in test runs, so concerns about false positives/negatives aren’t going away anytime soon.

The government has responded in the worst way to terrorist attacks in the US. It has made freedom of movement a hassle — one that diminishes Constitutional protections and turns every traveler into a potential suspect.

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Comments on “TSA Announces Plans To Subject Domestic Travelers To Biometric Screening”

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47 Comments
Warren Terra says:

If buy the gov't fable of 9/11, then you can't object.

Simple as that. You are TRAPPED by what you believe.

It’s always odd that "liberals" and "libertarians" absolutely believe the gov’t about 9/11 even though the flaws are obvious as are the uses gov’t had and has for it in extending police state and wars abroad for empire.

Here at "eclectic", "highly informed", and "skeptical" Techdirt, the New York Times / Establishment view is never questioned, even if requires believing the FBI / CIA / NSA which otherwise revile. WEIRD.

Anonymous Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

Papers please?

"It’s true that traveling in the US has always been a "papers, please" experience. But prior to the 9/11 attacks, this simply meant presenting a ticket before boarding."

I see this as wrong in two ways. The first of which is that presenting a ticket for a train or a bus (this discussion is related to internal US travel) is proof of payment, not ID. Second, there are no tickets needed to drive your car, motorcycle, bicycle interstate. If the cops pull you over for a traffic violation, either real or invented, one might get asked for a license, and if walking, again sans any legal violations, requiring ID is not valid (there may be some exceptions to that).

So while we are far from being required to present ‘papers’ anytime some officious dirtbag requests it, we are certainly on a path to get there, and that is not a good thing.

This is not like

JustMe (profile) says:

Re: Papers please?

Tim isn’t talking about providing proof of payment when boarding the vehicle, but about identity verification when entering the ‘secure’ boarding area of the facility.

And of course, all of the 9/11 terrorists had valid IDs so none of this (post 9/11) would have deterred them in any way. I don’t see how it will do so once biometric screening is implemented given their demonstrated willingness and ability to spend enough time in the country to lawfully obtain legitimate government documentation.

John Smith says:

Re: Re: Papers please?

These arguments were made against the first Rogues’ AGallary after the invention of the photograph. It could even trace back to when we began using names.

Speaking of which, since search engines are immune to any number of lies being placed online about someone, literally ddestroying their reputation (say from an anonymous remailer, where the ‘original publisher” literally can’t be found), you’d think “privacy” advocates would consider a persons’s reputation something worth defending against lies, but most say that “the internet as we know it would cease to exist” without 230. That would be a good thing, because any internet that doesn’t protect individual rights — reputation is considered a basic human right elsewhere, hence the right-to-be-forgotten laws — should no longer exist as we know it.

Since I’m not a terrorist and have no arrest warrants out for me I actually like the idea that actual criminals will be caught by this.

ryuugami says:

Re: Re: Re: Papers please?

Since I’m not a terrorist and have no arrest warrants out for me I actually like the idea that actual criminals will be caught by this.

Which just shows that the world is fundamentally unfair, since that statement is proof of criminal stupidity that makes you a greater danger to civilized society than any terrorist.

Anonymous Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Yes, and their version of ‘enhanced’ includes delays, intrusions, annoyance, false positives along with expenditures on legal assistance and even longer delays, insulted integrity, and wasteful spending of tax dollars. Each of these are considered features of the program and were part of the use case when they sent it out for design.

Anonymous Coward says:

The whole aim has been to get this implemented for everyone in the USA. The previous iterations were just to get the process underway, so no one would complain and it has worked! Terrorism and saving the children have never and will never be as important to any government as knowing everything there is to know about everyone! Ensuring they are in complete control of a country full of slaves is 2nd on the list!

CanadianByChoice (profile) says:

"The government has responded in the worst way to terrorist attacks in the US."

Considering that the major purpose of "terrorists" is to force political/social change by threat of violence, the terrorists "won" the day DHS was created. Each time the Surveillance State escalates (in the name of terrorism), the terrorists laugh harder.

Thad (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

“The terrorists hate us for our freedom” is a nonsense nationalist talking point (ironically pushed by the same people who are responsible for taking away our freedoms in the name of national security).

Al Qaeda targeted us because of our foreign policy. While I’m sure there’s plenty of hatred for the “decadent west” and the various ways in which we don’t conform to their preferred religious restrictions, that’s pretty tangential to the subject.

bob says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

the terrorists are fighting an asymmetrical war. One of the tactics is to cause your enemy to waste time and resources on things. Thr US wastes how much money on DHS and other things a year?

Loss of our freedoms wasn’t the goal but it can be used as a stepping point to cause infighting amongst the US and allies.

It doesn’t help that politicians took advantage of 9/11 to gain power too.

Anonymous Coward says:

"Smarter" screening

Rather than move towards smarter screening methods, the TSA has decided to subject everyone to the same level of screening…

But the TSA’s mindgames have clearly worked on Tim, who is only questioning the details of the screening rather than the need for any (hint: if it’s so ineffective that people get weapons through by accident…). The same thing’s happening with this announcement: push "normal" forward a little at a time. In 20 years we’ll be glad that museum entry "only" requires ID, body scanning, and facial recognition, not DNA sampling like airports.

Thad (profile) says:

Re: "Smarter" screening

But the TSA’s mindgames have clearly worked on Tim, who is only questioning the details of the screening rather than the need for any

…and just what exactly do you think the "security theater" tag on this post (and, y’know, all those other posts Tim has written about the pointlessness of the TSA) is meant to imply?

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