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TSA to test facial recognition at Las Vegas airport

Stephanie Pagones

Law enforcement personnel will be testing facial recognition technology on certain travelers passing through Las Vegas’ McCarran International Airport, the Department of Homeland Security announced this week.

The Transportation Security Administration will screen fliers’ faces at the TSA checkpoint and compare it to the travelers’ documents, such as their driver’s licenses or passports, in an effort “to improve the speed, efficiency, and security of TSA’s identity verification process is working on using the technology,” according to a 10-page report released by the Department of Homeland Security Monday.

Only those passengers who volunteer -- and are part of pre-check, according to Axios -- will be screened using the facial recognition technology – formally known as the “Credit Authentication Technology" outfitted with a camera,” or CAT-C, according to the release.

This portion of the screening process is traditionally performed by a TSA agent, who would manually validate that the documents match to the traveler.

For those who opt in, TSA will collect the following details:

  • “Real-time images of the passenger’s face (live photo from the checkpoint);
  • “Passenger’s photograph from the identity document;
  • “Identification document issuance and expiration dates;
  • “Date of travel;
  • “The type of identification document;
  • “The organization that issued the identification document (e.g., the state that issued the passenger’s driver’s license, or the U.S. Department of State in the case of passports);
  • “Year of passenger’s birth;
  • “And gender/Sex as listed in the identification document.”

The data obtained by the agency will be retained on an encrypted hard drive and provided to DHS science and technology personnel on a weekly basis "for subsequent qualitatitve and quantitative analysis."

This is the fourth time the TSA will be undergoing the “proof of concept" -- which will last for 30 days -- in an airport, Axios reports. The agency is in the middle of a program at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport.

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TSA also tested the technology in October 2017 at John F. Kennedy Airport and at Los Angeles International Airport in 2018, according to the report.

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