Airlines Use Facial Recognition for Boarding

Airport security has become stricter since the September 11, 2001 tragedy. Now, a new type of security is protecting passengers. This technology is called facial recognition, or as termed by the US Customs and Border Protection (CBP), a “biometric system.” The technology is used in airports worldwide. By 2021, CBP aims to screen all international travelers by face. This amounts to over 100 million passengers annually.

How does the technology work?

Getting a facial scan is much like taking a picture. Passengers stand in front of a large screen-based camera that takes their photos. The image collected is sent to the CBP Traveler Verification Service. From there, it is compared to an image of travelers already on file at the Department of Homeland Security from a passport, driver’s license, or other travel documents.

This technology is the analysis of biological information. Biological data includes voice recognition, fingerprints, retinal scans, and face recognition software. In less than two seconds, face recognition software evaluates your face. It creates a template that compares images already stored in a federal database with the one collected by the scanner. If the images match by 90% or more, the photo is accepted.

Are photos stored in systems?

Photos are stored in CBP’s systems. However, the length of storage time varies according to many factors including nationality, government agency, country, and even airline. For American citizens, government agencies store photos for 12 to 14 days. Alternatively, images of non-US citizens can remain in the system for years. Some airlines allow the personal data collected to be deleted shortly after it is collected. In other cases, data remains in the system for up to a year before it is removed.

What airports and airlines use the face recognition technology?

An increasing number of airports and airlines are incorporating face recognition into their boarding and screening process. Major airports using the technology include:

  • Atlanta
  • Boston
  • Chicago
  • Dallas/Fort Worth
  • JFK
  • Las Vegas
  • Los Angeles
  • Miami
  • Orlando
  • Seattle

In the United States, most domestic airlines use face screening technology. Some international airlines are using the screening technology, too. The list includes:

  • AirAsia
  • American Airlines
  • British Airways
  • Delta
  • Jet Blue
  • Lufthansa
  • United Airlines

Privacy Concerns

As with any form of new technology, there are privacy concerns surrounding data security. Airlines, agencies, and other advocates say that the technology is secure, convenient, and efficient. In many cases, it can replace the need for showing a boarding pass or passport at the screening area. However, passengers must still carry these documents to get on their flights. Face recognition technology is also praised for shortening the boarding process. Some airports say facial screening shortens the time people spend in security lines by 30% or more.

Other people, in contrast, say that the technology raises concerns about privacy. The CBP says it has conducted privacy impact assessments surrounding facial recognition software and that the technology is secure and private. Others say that the technology enables the government to create a digital blueprint of individuals. That digital identity can be used to track people without their knowledge. Since the technology is new, there are still very few data security regulations involving how it can be used in the future.

Although there is debate about the security and privacy of this technology, there is a solution. At least for now, American passengers can choose to opt-out of the screening process if they wish. If they do, they’ll be screened using the standard system of a passport and boarding pass check instead.

Secure Technology to Protect Data

Secure Drive cares about customer protection and security. Our drives are highly secure and can be conveniently unlocked with facial recognition technology. As a benefit to consumers, images are stored on users’ individual phones rather than our devices. This makes our data storage solution effective by maintaining privacy and improving the convenience and accessibility of biometric security. For questions or more information call us at 1-800-875-3230.