TSA Rolling Out Worrying New Tech at More Than 400 Airports

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Just in case your opinion of the Transportation Security Administration wasn’t low enough already, now they’re going to be getting even more of your biometric data.

According to a Monday report in tech policy outlet Nextgov/FCW, the TSA is planning a rollout of new facial-scanning units at over 400 airports in the United States and is currently “working with the Department of Homeland Security’s research and development component to analyze data to ensure that the new units are working correctly.”

“The latest CAT scanners — known as CAT-2 units — incorporate facial recognition technology by taking real-time pictures of travelers and then comparing those images against their photo IDs,” the outlet reported.

“TSA first demonstrated the CAT-2 units in 2020 and began deploying the new screeners at airports in 2022. A Jan. 12 press release from the agency said it added ‘457 CAT-2 upgrade kits utilizing the facial recognition technology’ in 2023.”

Given the fact the average American traveler has what can be charitably described as a low-trust relationship with the TSA, they’re making this sound as normal as apple pie, insisting the data that’s being collected will be “minimal.”

“The CAT-2 units are currently deployed at nearly 30 airports nationwide, and will expand to more than 400 federalized airports over the coming years,” a TSA official told Nextgov/FCW — and noted that travelers can opt out of the scan by notifying a TSA agent and going through standard verification procedures.

Furthermore, the move is being billed as privacy-enhancing, not privacy-degrading.

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