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Bipartisan Bill Would End Involuntary Use of Facial Recognition Tech at Airports

Senators concerned about the collection and retention of biometric data (facial recognition) by the TSA have introduced a bill that would change the agency's airport operations. Citing privacy, consent, and big government concerns, they propose to repeal the TSA's authority to use facial recognition. The lawmakers say that Americans don't know that they can opt out of the screenings.  

Why It Matters

The TSA has been conducting a pilot operation of using facial recognition to match flyers with their ID for about a year and a half. The Senate bill would end the program rather than requiring tweaks to it (such as improving the kind of notice given to flyers, or requiring clear opt-in consent from them). This is very telling as to lawmakers' state of mind about biometric data.  Whether this bill goes anywhere remains to be seen: Congress' track record on privacy bills is extremely poor. The fact that such a bill would come up only after the launch of a pilot program is evidence of the reactive and piecemeal way Congress has tried to approach privacy.           

The proposed legislation would ban the TSA from expanding its program and require the agency to receive congressional authorization to use the technology in the future. It would also require the TSA to dispose of the facial biometrics.


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