Watch CBS News

Facial recognition could speed up airport security, but at what risk to privacy?

Airport facial recognition tests
Airport facial recognition tests moving too fast? 02:35

Your face may soon be the only thing you need to board a flight. Some airlines are already testing facial recognition technology with the federal government.

The idea is to ditch boarding passes and increase the certainty of a passenger's identity.

JetBlue flight 773 from Boston to Aruba is taking passengers' pictures, sending them to a customs database and comparing them against passport photos, reports CBS News' Kris Van Cleave. 

If there is a match, you can board, which means you wouldn't need a boarding pass, phone or passport.

This trial of facial recognition technology by U.S. Customs and Border Protection and JetBlue aims to see if it can make the boarding process faster.

Facial recognition technology arrives at the airport 01:30

"You're just going to walk up and take a picture and that's it? It just amazes me, the technology," said passenger Francis Sadowski. 

The system matches images to a government database of passport photos. JetBlue executive vice president Joanna Geraghty says it's a seamless process.

"Customers are stressed when they're traveling. Crew members get stressed as well," Geraghty said. "We're looking at how you reduce those friction points. How do you create an experience that doesn't have any lines?" 

"That is revolutionary in the airline industry, and Delta is right at the front of it," said Gareth Joyce, Delta's senior vice president. 

Joyce tested a facial-recognition bag drop at Minneapolis' airport. Passengers will be able to check luggage without an employee verifying their identity. 

The airline is also testing facial-recognition at boarding gates in New York and Atlanta. 

"You can literally go from, you know, curb to plane without having to interact with a human being if you so desire," Joyce said. 

But even as the technology speeds passengers through the airport, some fear it's moving too fast.

Nearly half of Americans in facial recognition databases 01:59

"Implementation of the use of biometrics need to be scrutinized very closely," said Jeramie Scott of the Electronic Privacy Information Center, who worries about the use of personal identifiers that cannot change. 

"Increasingly, as we consolidate biometric data into big databases and we use it more and more, those databases will become targets, and the risk of data breach increases greatly," Scott explained. 

U.S. Customs and Border Protection reports it's not using these devices to store photos of U.S citizens and insists privacy is a priority.

Meanwhile, for those long lines at security checkpoints, the TSA is testing fingerprints instead of IDs at two airports.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.