TSA fought proposal to require facial recognition opt-outs at airports


The Transportation Security Administration fought legislation that would formalize the option for travelers not to undergo facial recognition scans at airports, despite the agency’s policy allowing for people to choose a manual review instead, according to two people familiar with the matter.
TSA’s position surfaced when Sens. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), John Kennedy (R-La.) and Roger Marshall (R-Kan.) filed an amendment to a bill to reauthorize the Federal Aviation Administration. Their proposal would require the TSA to allow people to opt out of facial recognition at airport security checkpoints.
TSA opposed the amendment that would codify its policy into law, according to a Senate aide and another person familiar with negotiations between lawmakers and the agency.
After publication a TSA spokesperson said in a statement that facial recognition “represents a significant security enhancement and improves traveler convenience,” adding, “we anticipate there will be a time that biometrics will become commonplace and widely accepted.”
Merkley said in a statement after publication: “As I worked with other Senate negotiators to develop a compromise proposal governing TSA’s use of facial recognition, it became abundantly clear that the end goal for TSA is to make facial recognition mandatory for all American air travelers and that the current opt-out system will end.”
The agency has plans to roll out facial recognition scanners at more than 430 airports, and its chief, David Pekoske, told the
Dallas Morning News last year that eventually biometric screenings will be mandatory.
The amendment was not included on the FAA reauthorization bill, which passed the Senate on Thursday. The House considers the bill next week.