Today the US Transportation Security Administration released a detailed TSA Biometric Roadmap for Aviation Security & the Passenger Experience, making explicit the goal of requiring mug shots (to be used for automated facial recognition and image-based surveillance and control) as a condition of all domestic or international air travel.
This makes explicit the goal that has been apparent, but only implicit, in the activities and statements of both government agencies and airline and airport trade associations.
It’s a terrifyingly totalitarian vision of pervasive surveillance of air travelers at, quite literally and deliberately, every step of their journey, enabled by automated facial recognition and by the seamless collaboration of airlines and airport operators that will help the government surveil their customers in exchange for free use of facial images for their own business purposes and profits.
The closest contemporary counterpart to what the TSA envisions for the USA is the pervasive surveillance and control of travelers in China through automated facial recognition by the Public Security Bureau.
Automated surveillance of air travelers by the TSA will begin with people who have “voluntarily” provided photos for other purposes such as background checks:
In the near term, TSA will deploy Credential Authentication Technology (CAT) to authenticate the security features of passengers’ ID credentials and allow Transportation Security Officers (TSOs) to retrieve passenger pre-screening status in near-real time…. In the future, TSA will be able to use TSA Pre✓® enrolled facial images for matching…. Moving forward, TSA Pre✓® will increase its access to and utilization of voluntarily-provided biometric data, including facial images, to modernize the trusted traveler experience for TSA Pre✓® travelers.
In a press release announcing its roadmap, the TSA says that:
TSA has already begun testing biometrics for TSA Pre✓® travelers…. As of September 2018, passengers who enroll in TSA Pre✓® or renew their membership in person are required to provide their photograph. Using applicants’ photographs, TSA will test facial biometric technology in TSA Pre✓® lanes at select airports once enrollment numbers support this testing.