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Blurry image of people walking down the street as seen through fictional facial recognition software
malija | Adobe Stock

Should Travelers Be Worried About Facial Recognition Technology Coming to Airports?

SmarterTravel

Airline industries and tech firms are looking to use Artificial technology (AI) facial recognition at airports in the near future. This technology could be used at airports for boarding planes in lieu of having a ticket or passport scanned. However, facial recognition software presents some serious privacy concerns that travelers should be aware of.

How Will AI Facial Recognition Be Used in Airports?

Concept of facial recognition technology in the hospitality industry
Monopoly919 | Adobe Stock

In the future, facial recognition technology may be used for a variety of security purposes, including but not limited to:

  • Contactless journeys and identity verification. Facial recognition could be used to determine whether a passenger is legitimate without requiring an up-close inspection or removal of a mask.
  • Security checks, such as by checking facial identity against law enforcement databases.
  • A faster check-in process. For example, AI could be used to recognize travelers’ faces and direct them to an expedited check-in line..

Should Travelers Be Concerned About AI Facial Recognition?

While there are several major advantages that could come with AI facial recognition tech, there are also many potential downfalls that tech companies and consumers need to be aware of. 

Surveillance & Data Privacy

If artificial intelligence tech is adopted in a widespread manner, facial recognition tech will make it easier for the government to track individuals—a breach of privacy many Americans might not agree with. 

Additionally, there are valid concerns over data privacy and how facial recognition data will be stored. 

Bias

The use of facial recognition tech in airports also presents concerns about bias. The machine learning algorithms in facial recognition software or devices could begin to display bias against those with darker skin, as has already happened in some test products for facial recognition.

Deepfakes

Others have identified deepfakes as a big potential problem, in which the faces of people are taken, analyzed, then adopted or replaced over video footage of other individuals. This could be especially problematic for celebrities or people of interest—imagine an incident where a US politician’s face is deepfaked to make it seem as though they did or said something they didn’t do in reality.

More deepfakes could be a consequence of collecting more facial security footage, regardless of the cyber security protocols adopted by the TSA and other agencies.

How Tech Companies Will Face and Solve These Concerns

These problems are real and will require serious consideration before AI facial recognition tech is fully implemented. However, tech companies such as TrueFace and AnyVision are already looking at ways to mitigate or solve these concerns, especially as they may affect the ultimate profitability of the airline industry.

These potential solutions include:

  • Using up-close biometric identification software in conjunction with facial recognition tech, rather than scanning faces from afar.
  • Using cryptographic security encryption techniques to keep citizens’ data safer.
  • Developing technology that can quickly catch the majority of deepfake videos.
  • Establishing new frameworks or tools that may be needed to protect digital identities and minimize the potential for harm.
  • AI refinement and development to minimize the possibility of bias, especially against minorities, when facial recognition tech is used.

If AI facial recognition is to be used at airports, each of these problems and more will need to be fully solved before the public can be expected to accept facial recognition tech en masse.

Ultimately, time will tell whether tech companies manage to sway the public regarding the potential privacy concerns inherent with facial recognition technology. While AI facial recognition may provide many practical benefits to the airline industry, the costs could be too high for most travelers’ comfort levels.

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