Biometrics Technology | Transportation Security Administration

Estelle Sidler

In November 2018, TSA began testing facial recognition technology at the Hartsfield–Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL) in Terminal F as an alternative means to verify a passenger’s identity when they begin screening at a TSA security checkpoint. This ongoing pilot is in conjunction with U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and tests biometric […]

In November 2018, TSA began testing facial recognition technology at the Hartsfield–Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL) in Terminal F as an alternative means to verify a passenger’s identity when they begin screening at a TSA security checkpoint. This ongoing pilot is in conjunction with U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and tests biometric technology for identity verification. The technology used is the Traveler Verification System maintained by CBP. We also tested this system in the Tom Bradley International Terminal at Los Angeles International Airport from August to October 2018.

Participation in the facial recognition test is voluntary. Passengers who choose not to have their picture taken should notify a TSA officer.

What passengers can expect

When passengers present their boarding passes, a TSA officer will ask if they would like to have their picture taken instead of providing physical identification documents. CBP’s system will attempt to compare that picture to photos in government databases, such as photos obtained from passports or visa applications, to verify the passenger’s identity. TSA does not store the photograph.

If CBP’s system confirms a match to a photograph in a government database, the passenger’s name and date of birth will be sent from the database to a tablet used by the TSA officer. The TSA officer will then use the information displayed on the tablet to verify the identity of the passenger and direct the passenger to proceed with physical screening.

If CBP’s system cannot match the passenger’s picture, the database will indicate that no picture match could be made. Where the system does not produce a match, the TSA officer will use standard document checking procedures.

After the passenger completes screening, a CBP officer may approach and ask to speak with the passenger. The CBP officer will run further checks, which may include a review of immigration and law enforcement databases available to CBP. These databases may reveal whether the passenger is subject of a warrant or other immigration or law enforcement action.

For more information about CBP’s exit program, please visit their biometric air exit website. For more information regarding privacy, please visit the DHS Traveler Verification Service website.

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