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Facial Recognition to board a plane

A boarding technology for travelers using JetBlue is causing controversy due to a social media thread on the airline’s use of facial recognition. Last week, traveler MacKenzie Fegan described her experience with the biometric technology in a social media post that got the attention of JetBlue’s official account. She began: “I just boarded an international @JetBlue flight. Instead of scanning my boarding pass or handing over my passport, I looked into a camera before being allowed down the jet bridge. Did facial recognition replace boarding passes, unbeknownst to me? Did I consent to this?” JetBlue was ready to offer Twitterized sympathy: “You’re able to opt out of this procedure, MacKenzie. Sorry if this made you feel uncomfortable.”

But once you start thinking about these things, your thoughts become darker. Fegan wanted to know how JetBlue knew what she looked like. JetBlue explained: “The information is provided by the United States Department of Homeland Security from existing holdings.” Fegan wondered by what right a private company suddenly had her bioemtric data. JetBlue insisted it doesn’t have access to the data. It’s “securely transmitted to the Customs and Border Protection database.” Fegan wanted to know how this could have possibly happened so quickly. Could it be that in just a few seconds her biometric data was whipped “securely” around government departments so that she would be allowed on the plane? JetBlue referred her to an article on the subject, which was a touch on the happy-PR side. Fegan was moved, but not positively, by the phrase “there is no pre-registration required.”