A Seamless Journey Awaits You On The Outbound Flights: All You Have To Give Up Is Your Face

from the say-cheese,-citizens dept

The DHS’s airport panopticon is rolling out slowly, but surely. And of course it’s being done with as little oversight or guidance as possible. Major international airports are already turning your face into your ID, giving travelers little option but to get their faces out if they don’t want to receive extra questioning.

If you’re worried about adding your face to the government’s extra-large bin o’ biometrics, you’re welcome to opt out. The easiest way to avoid this is to not travel at all, which is exactly what the DHS suggests. There are other options, but by the time you know they’re available, you’ve likely already had your face scanned and matched against the DHS database by software known mostly for its failure rate.

This happened to a JetBlue flier who noticed her face had been scanned and matched against… something… before she was able to board her international flight. She reached out to JetBlue via Twitter and got some not-very-enlightening answers and a couple of disturbing clarifications.

I just boarded an international @JetBlue flight. Instead of scanning my boarding pass or handing over my passport, I looked into a camera before being allowed down the jet bridge. Did facial recognition replace boarding passes, unbeknownst to me? Did I consent to this?

JetBlue responded to Mackenzie Fegan with the sort of apology one offers on Twitter: I’m sorry this made you feel [x]. The option no one at JetBlue will point out to you remains an option.

You’re able to opt out of this procedure, MacKenzie. Sorry if this made you feel uncomfortable.

Note that it’s “this” and not “we.” This is how a corporate entity absolves itself of responsibility while nominally offering an apology. Good stuff.

Fegan’s follow-up question was more on point:

Presumably these facial recognition scanners are matching my image to something in order to verify my identity. How does @JetBlue know what I look like?

JetBlue’s response was not very comforting:

The information is provided by the United States Department of Homeland Security from existing holdings.

Oh. “Exisiting holdings.” Awesome. But where did this “existing holding” get its backstock of facial photos? Well, some may have come from passports. Some likely came from state driver’s license databases. The DHS has a number of sources for people’s photos: mugshots, government employee records, biometric info collected from various state and federal agencies charged with vetting volunteers and applicants for certain forms of employment (day care, elder care, any job the government feels you need a license to perform…), and any place else the government may have acquired a photo of you (or someone who somewhat resembles you).

The process works nearly instantaneously. It’s seamless and slick and all the work is done behind the scenes. Just smile and move forward. Sure, you can opt out — or so JetBlue says — but the link JetBlue provided explains nothing but its fervent belief that more facial recognition databases can only be a boon for airline passengers.

Since the program’s launch in 2017, more than 50,000 customers have participated in biometric boarding on 500+ flights across all four cities. There is no pre-registration required. Customers can simply step up to the camera for a photo match and make their way onto the aircraft.

“The success of JetBlue’s biometric boarding program is a testament to the airline’s ongoing work to create a personal, helpful and simple experience,” said Ian Deason, senior vice president of customer experience, JetBlue. “The boarding touchpoint is an area that needs innovation and we feel biometrics will change the future of air travel as we look to create a more seamless journey throughout the airport.”

Opting in is as simple as putting your face in front of the cameras the DHS and JetBlue nudge travelers toward. Opting out, however, doesn’t appear to be a process anyone — the DHS or JetBlue — are willing to talk about openly. The DHS just says, “Don’t fly.” JetBlue says, “Why would anyone want to make their ‘journey’ less ‘seamless?'”

Flying has always been something the government has taken great interest in. The pitch is passenger safety, but the more the government knows about where and when you travel, the more secure it feels. It doesn’t do much for the security of passengers but it eases the government’s mind when its freely-moving citizens can still be tracked. Grabbing faces at checkpoints to ensure “seamless journeys” is just another step down the path the government’s been traveling for awhile now, which includes allowing the CBP and DEA to warrantlessly peruse traveler data to find people it wants to track… or to shake down for cash.

The tech is finally catching up with the government’s post-9/11 desires. It has asked repeatedly for us to trade privacy and personal security for a nebulous greater good. And it’s gone ahead and made those tradeoffs no matter what the answer has been.

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Companies: jetblue

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Comments on “A Seamless Journey Awaits You On The Outbound Flights: All You Have To Give Up Is Your Face”

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37 Comments
Anonymous Coward says:

to be expected

Tim, please. We already know how you look…it is "Tim" right?

Relax. This is just biblical prophecy being fulfilled –> Rev. 13:16-18. I could see if technology was NOT moving full speed towards giving one entity the ability to track just about every person on earth, but you’d have to be delusional to think that we’re just gaining more and more privacy protections every year.
Let’s see..
CCTV
IPv6
IoT
doorbell cams
EMR
etc…
Yeah, I know. For the children’s safety.

Anonymous Coward says:

On one hand I don’t really like the escalation of tracking all the things. But on the other I don’t get why it’s such a big deal to know who I am by looking at me. If the computer gets it wrong I have my ID to prove who I really am, the same ID I would have presented without the facial recognition.

Casinos have used this technology for a lot of years. More recently many retail stores have implemented it. If you’re worried about someone somewhere recognizing you maybe facial recognition isn’t your biggest issue.

Anonymous Coward says:

Its a seamless journey into the world of total surveillance,
anywhere you go, you,ll be photographed going into any building,
in some countrys most items are bought with digital payments.
Will these database,s with photo ids be hacked in the future ,providing data for fraud.
Most us government databases are not very secure ,
some states are using pcs using windows xp and other versions of windows that are not secure.
Corporations do not care about privacy especially if it
saves time and money.

Anonymous Coward says:

If everyone flew naked...

I’m serious. If everyone flew naked, we wouldn’t have this problem:

You get undressed in a special room in the boarding area.
Everyone flies completely naked.
The crew gives you 1 blanket.
There are no carry on items.
You get dressed in a special room after you land.

Problem solved. What kinda weapon can you bring onboard if you’re completely naked? What…weaponized bodily fluids…what?

Uriel-238 (profile) says:

As little oversight or guidance as possible

I’m pretty as little oversight or guidance as possible is a key ingredient in the US drone strike program, the torture program, the mass surveillance program, the FBI terror sting program and our abstinence-only sex education programs (where students are locked into a theater while a missionary screeches at them about how worthless girls are without their hymens. Seriously).

I’m pretty sure it’s how police have been murdering about a thousand people a year, and we didn’t notice until the Furguson Unrest.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Among our lists of interesting potential futures

Apparently it is ok to not vaccinate against deadly pathogens and as a result put the lives of millions in jeopardy, but if you run afoul of these silly surveillance measures you are a huge threat to society.

It is good to know we have our priorities set correctly
/s

Cowardly Lion says:

Since when did Government Databases become a Sweetie Shop?

Several aspects of this story concern me, such as the way this technology is being rolled out without any public discussion, and the DHS’s oppressive "opt in, or fuck the fuck off" approach.

But I’m also concerned with the ease with which commercial entities seem to be getting ever greater access to governmental databases containing our personal data. And there’s arguabaly not much more personal than your face.

It seems that our data is available wholesale to whoever wants it.

Bamboo Harvester (profile) says:

Re: Since when did Government Databases become a Sweetie Shop?

The government contracts out this kind of work, and gets the data under that contract.

It’s not the government selling the data off, it’s the companies the government hired to collect it and build the databases in the first place.

Look at the original obamacare website. Millions of dollars for what was essentially a broken geocities page. Aside from it crashing constantly, I rather doubt it was secure in any sense of the word.

Uriel-238 (profile) says:

Re: Re: "government contracts out this kind of work"

Yeah, outsourcing is the way we get around quality-of-work standards from our departments. Don’t care about your inmates? Send them to private prison. Need a civilian village wiped out? Send a PMC unit in.

I’d think we’d pass a law that contractors to the US government must abide by the same standards the department does for the same kind of work. But we’ve not even written the bill.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Since when did Government Databases become a Sweetie Shop?

And there’s arguabaly not much more personal than your face.

I disagree. Your face is what everyone sees when you walk around in public. It’s how people recognize you in a crowd. It’s what you use to communicate intent when speaking. Your face is on your identification card/passport/everything and is how you prove you are who you say you are. It is the single most public aspect of your existence and thus the least private.

The only aspect of facial recognition that is at all disturbing is that with enough ubiquity of surveillance cameras your movements can be tracked automatically, all that data available to the whims of anyone (read: pretty much everyone) wanting to find out where you’ve been.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Since when did Government Databases become a Sweetie Sho

"The only aspect of facial recognition that is at all disturbing is that with enough ubiquity of surveillance cameras your movements can be tracked automatically"

The only aspect? I do not think you have given this enough scrutiny.
If it exists, it will be abused. Now just think of all the horrible things one could do and you will still be amazed at what some folk think is acceptable behavior.

Uriel-238 (profile) says:

Re: consent with government

A modern government is supposed to operate by the consent of the public, and is supposed to assure that it’s doing what the public wants by transparency, oversight and an open press (with open journalism)

Without these things, a government that operates at gunpoint, by misdirection, by obfuscation, by deception is tyrannical, and ultimately turns against the needs of the public.

Sadly, without rebellion, we don’t have a solution to this, though don’t expect your workforce to give two fucks about their quality of output, since upward mobility is had by sabotaging rivals.

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