TSA Launches Facial Recognition Pilot at Las Vegas Airport

The Transportation Security Administration will conduct a short term proof of concept in Las Vegas’ McCarran International Airport to examine how effective facial recognition technology could be at automating travelers’ identity verification, according to a recent publication from the Homeland Security Department.

For passengers who opt in, the agency will assess the technology’s capability to verify travelers’ live facial images taken at security checkpoints against the images on their identity documents.

“TSA expects that facial recognition may permit TSA personnel to focus on other critical tasks and expediting security processes—resulting in shorter lines and reduced wait times,” officials said in a privacy impact assessment regarding the proof. “Biometric matching is also expected to increase TSA’s security effectiveness by improving the ability to detect impostors.”

The agency plans to use biometrics to identify 97% of travelers flying out of the country by 2022. Last year, TSA performed an initial proof of concept, capturing real-time facial images from biometric-enabled automated electronic security gates to passengers’ e-Passports at the Los Angeles International Airport.

Instead of using automated security gates in this pilot, TSA will use a Credential Authentication Technology device with a camera, or a CAT-C device, to authenticate passengers’ identity documents. The device also will collect the image and biographic information from those documents and capture live images of passengers’ faces. The ultimate goal is to ensure that biometrics work for verifying passengers.

“To participate, passengers will voluntarily choose to enter a lane dedicated to the proof of concept,” TSA said.

Ultimately the agency plans to collect: live photos of passengers’ faces, photos from traveler documents, identification document issuance and expiration dates, travel dates, various types of identification documents, the organizations that issued their identification documents, the years of passenger’s births, as well as the gender or sex listed in the identification documents.

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