First U.S. Airport “Biometric Terminal” Set For Rollout This Year

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By Nicholas West

Biometric identification at U.S. airports has quietly been rolling out at various locations around the world. In some cases, it has been sprung upon the general traveling public without warning, leaving some to question how optional all of this will be as travelers becomes acclimatized to the new boarding process.

Despite many privacy groups warning about the type of incremental “mission creep” we have seen across the spectrum of technological tracking and surveillance, Delta Airlines is taking the lead in bringing about what they call the future of global air travel.

Upon rollout, the biometric option will be available only for passengers checking in at Atlanta for nonstop flights to an international destination.

For those who want to use the option, Delta touted it as a glimpse of the future.

“Launching the first biometric terminal in the U.S. at the world’s busiest airport means we’re bringing the future of flying to customers traveling around the globe,” Gil West, Delta’s COO, says in a statement. “Customers have an expectation that experiences along their journey are easy and happen seamlessly – that’s what we’re aiming for by launching this technology across airport touch points.”

“The expansion of biometrics and facial recognition throughout the airport environment represents the next generation of security identification technology,” TSA Administrator David Pekoske adds in Delta’s statement. “TSA is committed to working with great partners like Delta, ATL and CBP on developing and deploying new capabilities like these.”

Here is a graphic from Delta showing the “optional” process.

What is not mentioned in the article is that the move toward biometrics for air travel is a government mandate that is 15 years in the making. Private companies have been enlisted by  U.S. Customs and Border Protection to integrate their systems into government databases for ID verification. As stated by Jim Peters, chief technology officer for SITA, one of the information technology companies working with airlines, they are looking for a “quick and easy roll out across U.S. airports.” He added that the goal is a system as “quick as a Google search for most passengers.”

However, privacy and data breaches have become as common as the days of the week, so how reassured are we supposed to feel when a “Google search” for passengers is being touted?

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