May 24, 2024 - News

Facial recognition takes off at Richmond airport

TSA showing the facial recognition system to a man at the airport.

Facial recognition system being unveiled at Dulles Airport in 2018. Photo: Bill O'Leary/Washington Post/Getty Images

All of Richmond Airport's security checkpoints now have facial recognition technology as part of a TSA program slated for over 400 airports nationwide.

Why it matters: It's designed to boost security and in some cases, speed things up — which might help as airports brace for a record-breaking travel season this summer.

The big picture: Facial recognition tech is already a part of a pilot TSAPreCheck program in which participating travelers can go through security without presenting physical IDs or boarding passes.

  • Dulles rolled out an early facial recognition system back in 2018. More recently, apps like Mobile Passport Control use facial recognition to help travelers hasten through customs.
  • A national pilot program launched at DCA in 2020.
  • BWI rolled out new credential technology last year, which can authenticate over 2,500 types of IDs and is completely self-serve.

Yes, but: There are growing concerns with the technology regarding accuracy, privacy and civil rights violations, and reported issues with proper training by federal agencies.

How it works: The units, called CAT-2, are self-serve. Travelers insert their ID, look at the camera, get their photo taken and if the ID is validated, they can proceed through the checkpoint.

  • The system can also confirm the passenger has a ticket to fly out of Richmond's two-terminal airport that day but travelers will still need to show their boarding pass at the gate.

Between the lines: The photo is deleted right after and travelers can choose to opt out.

  • Anyone under 18 isn't photographed, either.
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