The future of airport screening technology has taken off. Recently, the Transportation Security Administration began testing new checkpoint screening technology at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport and Denver International Airport—the implications of which are groundbreaking for airport and travel security.
The new intelligence, known as biometric authentication technology, enables travelers’ fingerprints to serve as both a boarding pass and a form of identification when passing through airport checkpoints.
According to a national press release from the Transportation Security Administration, “The technology matches passenger fingerprints provided at the checkpoint to those that have previously been provided to TSA by travelers when [or if] they enrolled in the TSA PreCheck application program.”
When the technology identifies the fingerprint, it obtains the passenger’s boarding pass information through Secure Flight—a “risk-based passenger pre-screening program” that matches travelers’ names against trusted watch lists—then allows or denies a traveler access through the security checkpoint past an electronic gate.
This technology-in-testing has the potential to expedite the TSA checkpoint process for “low-risk travelers” by eliminating the need for boarding passes and identification, which would significantly decrease travelers’ time spent waiting in regular security lines. Unsurprisingly, however, when it comes to travelers’ safety and privacy, biometric fingerprint technology remains a “touchy” subject.
“Through these and other technology demonstrations, we are looking to reinvent and enhance security effectiveness to meet the evolving threat and ensure that passengers get to their destinations safely,” Steve Karoly, TSA acting assistant administrator, said in a statement.
For now, participation is voluntary (it requires enrolling in TSA’s PreCheck application program), and all passengers who choose to partake will still be subject to standard TSA screening processes.
TSA will make no other use of fingerprints gathered during this data collection period and will analyze information collected during the pilot for potential implementation of the program at other U.S. airports in the future.