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Warning: TSA Facial Recognition Plan Likely to Become Part of Growing Biometric Surveillance System

The federal government plans to use a TSA program advertised as a way to avoid lines at airport security checkpoints to harvest photos and other biometric information that will ultimately end up in multiple federal databases.

The TSA touts its PreCheck program as a way to avoid the hassle of security screening. Members of the program do not have to remove shoes, laptops, liquids, belts and light jackets. But according to a report by the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), the Department of Homeland Security has developed this program with a broader purpose in mind. PreCheck will facilitate the collection of face images and iris scans on a nationwide scale. Once that happens, this biometric data will almost certainly be widely shared with other federal agencies and even private corporations.

The TSA currently collects fingerprints during the PreCheck application process. Over the summer, the agency ran a pilot program at the Atlanta Airport using fingerprints to verify passengers’ identities. According to the EFF, the TSA wants to roll out the program to airports across the country and expand it to include facial recognition, iris scans, and other biometric data.

This TSA will almost certainly share this information with other federal agencies, including the FBI.

In 2014, the FBI rolled out a nationwide facial recognition program. According to information obtained by Georgetown Law last year, the Next Generation Identification Interstate Photo System (NGI-IPS), already contains some 25 million state and federal criminal photos, mostly mugshots shared by state and local law enforcement agencies. Photos remain in the system even if a court never convicts the individual of a crime. It remains unclear what other types of photos end up in NGI-IPS, but it seems almost certain TSA pre-check photos will end up in that database

 

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