U. S. Senators Want to Limit Facial Recognition Use at Airports

A bipartisan group of U. S. senators is asking for restrictions on the use of facial recognition technology by the TSA. They site concerns about privacy for travelers as well as their civil liberties.

A letter sent in May, co-signed by 14 lawmakers, called on Senate leaders to use the upcoming reauthorization of the Federal Aviation Administration as a way to restrict the use of the technology.

“This technology poses significant threats to our privacy and civil liberties, and Congress should prohibit TSA’s development and deployment of facial recognition tools until rigorous congressional oversight occurs,” the senators said in the letter.

The effort, led by Sens Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., John Kennedy, R-La., and Roger Marshall, R-Kan., “would halt facial recognition technology at security checkpoints, which has proven to improve security effectiveness, efficiency, and the passenger experience,” TSA said in a statement.

The senators said in the letter that the “surveillance technology as deployed by TSA does not make air travel safer. In response to congressional inquiries, TSA has not produced evidence that more false identification documents have been discovered since their implementation of facial recognition. The 3% error rate cited by TSA represents more than 68,000 mismatches daily if used on all 2.3 million daily travelers. 141 Recent news reports that hundreds of passengers have bypassed TSA security checkpoints entirely in recent years suggest that TSA should focus on the fundamentals, not expanding its facial recognition program.”

The technology is currently in use at 84 airports around the country and is planned to expand in the coming years to the roughly 430 covered by TSA. TSA says the system improves accuracy of identity verification without slowing passenger speeds at checkpoints.