Delta Air Lines to Deploy Facial Recognition Tech in Seattle

Delta Air Lines, the second-largest carrier at Seattle’s Sea-Tac airport, is implementing facial recognition that will be used with international travelers at its gates by the end of this year.

by / November 26, 2019
The Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA) Shutterstock/EQRoy

The Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (Sea-Tac) will see the deployment of facial recognition technology for international travelers flying with Delta Airlines by the end of the year, according to local news reports.

Delta Airlines has the second largest fleet at Sea-Tac and the company hopes that with the technology passengers will be able to board a flight with just their face, which will be photographed and compared with a visa or passport photo in the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) database.

Customs officials want the publicly elected Port of Seattle Commission to side with the use of the emerging technology, but as a federal entity it does not require the local governing body’s approval. The five-member commission will vote on principles guiding the use of facial recognition and other biometric technology at the airport in December, according to the Seattle Times.

Commissioners have declared that they want participation to be voluntary and Delta is advertising facial recognition as a faster way to get through airport lines, like baggage check, according to a Seattle Times article.

Two other airlines at Sea-Tac discontinued a program testing the effectiveness of the technology because results showed it was slowing down the boarding process, according to the Seattle Times.

Civil liberties groups are urging authorities to block the installation of facial recognition in the Delta departure terminals, citing that the technology has trouble identifying people of color, women, those with facial hair and individuals wearing hijabs. But, without the passage of federal or state laws stipulating how facial recognition can be used, the CBP can continue with a planned rollout unimpeded.

Domestic travelers have the option to opt-out of the screening, for the moment. The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) plans to expand the technology in the near future by using information from ID photos and other biometrics submitted when individuals apply for a driver’s license, according to the report.

CBP will start using facial recognition to identify people entering the country through Sea-Tac when the new international-arrivals building opens in July.

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