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.

Filed Under: boarding pass, dhs, facial recognition, flights, homeland security
Companies: jetblue


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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 23 Apr 2019 @ 12:08pm

    The term is "weasel apology"

    They say "we're sorry" as if they are apologizing but they aren't. Then again, asking for an apology is asking someone to admit guilt, so...I think it's like sarcasm evolving to avoid libel.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 23 Apr 2019 @ 12:22pm

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 23 Apr 2019 @ 12:52pm

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Vidiot (profile), 23 Apr 2019 @ 1:13pm

    I hear that for cost reasons, low budget carrier Spirit Airlines is opting for a buttcheeks-on-photocopier biometric system.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    anonymous me, 23 Apr 2019 @ 1:17pm

    "Don't fly."

    Okay. That's exactly what I've done --stopped flying.
    (I have the luxury of flying or not flying being a choice.)

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      rangda (profile), 23 Apr 2019 @ 2:33pm

      Re: "Don't fly."

      While I have taken a similar approach (haven't been on a plane since 2007) that won't get you away from facial recognition as the technology moves forward.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 23 Apr 2019 @ 1:29pm

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 23 Apr 2019 @ 1:29pm

    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?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 23 Apr 2019 @ 1:52pm

    What if you shave or get a haircut ... even worse - a car wreck that affects your face. Too bad, you are a terrorist.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Uriel-238 (profile), 23 Apr 2019 @ 1:57pm

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      That One Guy (profile), 24 Apr 2019 @ 1:47am

      'Why, I'm sure I don't know what you're talking about...'

      Pretty sure that's called 'plausible deniability', where if they don't look too close at the results of their actions they can continue to pretend that it's working great, nothing wrong at all, nothing to see here...

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Uriel-238 (profile), 23 Apr 2019 @ 2:03pm

    Among our lists of interesting potential futures

    We have everyone in Syd Mead anonymity helmets or wearing Juggalo facepaint.

    No I can't take it off. It's against my religion. Your face-recognition camera will steal my soul. And thankfully I live in a nation where my right to practice my faith is preserved.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 23 Apr 2019 @ 2:27pm

      Re: Among our lists of interesting potential futures

      Ah; but if you do THAT, they might decide that preserving the right to faith-based actions should no longer be protected.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 24 Apr 2019 @ 7:15am

        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

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 23 Apr 2019 @ 2:25pm

    I wonder how this boarding system would hold up to me taking a photo of the person behind me in line and holding their image up to the camera?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 23 Apr 2019 @ 3:17pm

      Re:

      The more sophisticated modern ones can tell the difference between a face and a photo of a face. That problem has been solved for a while. Sadly, many of the systems out there today are neither sophisticated nor modern.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    David, 23 Apr 2019 @ 3:14pm

    Adding just one letter makes this an uplifting political message

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

    Namely security theatre.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Anonymous Anonymous Coward (profile), 23 Apr 2019 @ 5:35pm

    Tim, Tim, Tim

    "...software known mostly for its failure rate."

    Let's not be so negative. It's false positives!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Anonymous Anonymous Coward (profile), 23 Apr 2019 @ 5:36pm

    Tim, Tim, Tim

    "...software known mostly for its failure rate."

    Let's not be so negative. It's false positives!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Cowardly Lion, 24 Apr 2019 @ 2:33am

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Bamboo Harvester (profile), 24 Apr 2019 @ 4:30am

      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.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Uriel-238 (profile), 24 Apr 2019 @ 11:36am

        "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.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 24 Apr 2019 @ 8:24am

      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.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 24 Apr 2019 @ 9:48am

        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.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Kevin, 24 Apr 2019 @ 10:30am

    You don't get consent with government

    Fegan doesn't comprehend that consent isn't given with the State? The whole concept of the State to function is via force. Grow up.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Uriel-238 (profile), 24 Apr 2019 @ 11:44am

      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.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Bamboo Harvester (profile), 24 Apr 2019 @ 1:21pm

      Re: You don't get consent with government

      Not exactly.

      Governments, ANY government, works only so long as the threat of force is believable, and that the force it can bring to bear is greater than that "anyone else" may have.

      It's generally referred to as Force Majure.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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