I work on digital identity and this described below experience really highlighted the problem with much of the Biometrics industry and governments who use the technology – no explanation of what is actually happening or how a system got the template of my face. It re-affirmed for me the need for the Thoughtful Biometrics Workshop coming up March 16th.
I left SFO on Saturday at midnight on an EVA flight to Taipei.
Biometric Exit combined with boarding that involved no presentment of a ticket or passport really caught me off guard. It was quite frankly creepy.
I never agreed to share my photo with the airline – or to be part of a gallery (The group of photos of all people who would be getting on a plane). I just thought I was going through normal boarding where I would share my ticket and passport as part of getting on the plane.
Instead I was asked to stand in front of a camera/screen that took my photo and then beeped/flashed green to say it was ok for me to get on the plane.
When I said to the woman who was at the gate – what was going on that I hadn’t consented to this and where did they get the template to do this. She was a bit surprised by my question and shrugged and said she thought they got it off the chip on my passport. Except I know this didn’t happen. When I checked my bag in they only did that machine readability off the visual MRTD part of my passport – by swiping it through the reader on their keyboard.
So I’m putting things together about what I think happened.
CBP is doing Biometric Exit in collaboration with the airline. (article confirming this)
The PNR – passenger name record is shared ahead of time with CBP – they put together a gallery (templates/photos of all the people who’s names appear as being on the flight) and then they use this gallery when folks pass through the live scanner. This is me putting things together based on some of what I know and what I think is going on.
The fact that there was no signage to explain to folks what is happening or how is really scary to me. This type of thing – where all of a sudden a thing is scanning your face and giving you a go/no-go to get on a plane is why people mis-trust facial recognition systems and technology. I checked San Francisco has a ban on facial recognition technology – but only for local government agencies.
I hope we can talk about this experience and others at the Thoughtful Biometrics Workshop coming up March 16th. Please join us.