May 1, 2024 - Business

Facial recognition tech takes off at DCA and BWI

A US customs and border agent takes a photograph of a traveler using facial recognition technology

Facial recognition tech at a U.S. Customs and Border Protection checkpoint. Photo: Pedro Portal/Miami Herald via Getty Images

Facial recognition technology is now deployed at all Reagan National Airport and BWI security checkpoints — part of a TSA program that's slated for over 400 airports nationwide.

Why it matters: It's designed to enhance security and in some cases, speed things up.

The big picture: Facial recognition tech is already embraced by Clear and a pilot TSAPreCheck program where participating travelers can speed through security without presenting physical IDs or boarding passes.

The intrigue: There are growing accuracy and privacy concerns over the technology, and reported issues with proper training by federal agencies.

Context: 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. Authentication units are now in their second generation.
  • BWI rolled out new credential technology last year, which can authenticate over 2,500 types of IDs and is completely self-serve.

Zoom in: At DCA, the authentication program verifies travelers by scanning their ID and taking their photo. The optional process doesn't store photos or use biometrics.

  • Travelers may opt-out with no penalty or added time. Travelers under 18 aren't photographed.
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