An exchange on Twitter between a passenger and airline regarding the use of facial recognition as a boarding pass is drawing the attention of privacy rights groups and concerned citizens over the weekend.
JetBlue is the first domestic airline to use facial recognition software on international flights, and it led to a Twitter exchange with a passenger.
“Instead of scanning my boarding pass or handing over my passport, I looked into a camera before being allowed down the jet bridge,” tweeted Mackenzie Fagan. "Did facial recognition replace boarding passes, unbeknownst to me? Did I consent to this?”
I just boarded an international @JetBlue flight. Instead of scanning my boarding pass or handing over my passport, I looked into a camera before being allowed down the jet bridge. Did facial recognition replace boarding passes, unbeknownst to me? Did I consent to this?
— MacKenzie Fegan (@mackenzief) April 17, 2019
While the exchange did not quell Fagan's concerns, it did express how happy JetBlue was to be on the cutting edge with this program.
“The success of JetBlue’s biometric boarding program is a testament to the airline’s ongoing work to create a personal, helpful, and simple experience,” said Ian Deason, JetBlue's senior vice president of customer experience, in a press release. “The boarding touchpoint is an area that needs innovation and we feel biometrics will change the future of air travel as we look to create a more seamless journey throughout the airport.”
A Department of Homeland Security report says by 2023, facial recognition technology will replace traditional travel documents for 97 percent of domestic travelers.
“Since its inception, over two million passengers on over 15,000 flights have used the technology on exit, with an average biometric match rate of 98 percent,” said Acting Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAllister in the report.
While a 98 percent match rate may be stated as a positive by the acting secretary, previous facial recognition software's weak spot with the faces of women and people of color, have groups like the Electronic Frontier Foundation concerned about its implementation.
“According to the FAA, 2.5 million passengers fly through U.S. airports every day,” said EFF's Surveillance Litigation Director Jennifer Lynch in a blog post. “Meaning that even a two percent error rate would cause thousands of people to be misidentified every day.”
According to the Hill, there are no laws regulating the use of facial recognition in the U.S.
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