Delta launches facial recognition security in Atlanta

by mcardinal

Lauren Moye, FISM NEWS


Facial recognition has long been an element of science fiction settings, but it may soon become a reality for domestic travelers in America. On Oct. 26, Delta Airlines announced their first TSA pre-check lobby and bag drop.

Delta will soon allow Atlanta domestic customers to participate in a trial run of a curb-to-gate facial recognition security program that will allow individuals to check bags, pass through security, and board their plane just by looking at cameras.

“We want to give our customers more time to enjoy travel by unlocking simplified, seamless, and efficient experiences from end to end,” said Byron Merritt, Delta’s Vice President of Brand Experience Design.

The “digital identity-enabled experience” is possible through Delta’s exclusive partnership with the Transportation Security Administration’s PreCheck membership. While the program is pending approval for the TSA, the airline is prepared to begin implementing it as quickly as Nov. 3 of this year. The trial will then run until June 2022.

Once approved, eligible Delta fliers will be able to use the new pre-check lobby in Atlanta Airport’s South terminal. A hands-free facial scan confirms a customer’s identity and boarding status. Once confirmed, customers will then be able to print their bag tags to self-check luggage onto a bag drop.

“As soon as you take your mask off it takes the photograph. It’s now using that image that it just had with your passport number,” Delta Senior Vice President Ranjan Goswami explained to a CBS News reporter. “It’s pinging the customs database, making sure there’s an image match there. And now here we go — our bag tag will print.”

Another camera at the nearby PreCheck security checkpoint will verify identity once more, allowing fliers to cruise quickly through the line. A Delta official estimated that facial recognition will allow travelers to move through security in 6-10 seconds.

Delta has also installed biometric technology at gates in Concourse T that will enable customers to board their flight without having to produce a boarding pass.

For now the program is only eligible to travelers enrolled in Delta’s SkyMiles loyalty program who have uploaded a passport and who are also in the TSA pre-check program. They plan to expand the program to fulfill their vision of being the first airline to revolutionize airport security through the use of biometrics.

Byron said, “Delta has been a leader in testing and implementing facial recognition technology since 2018 as part of our vision for building airports that are effortless. The launch of Atlanta’s express lobby and bag drop is the latest step in our commitment to listening and innovating for our customers.”

In 2018, Delta began using facial recognition for international travelers in the Atlanta airport. Earlier this year, Delta began using facial recognition at the security checkpoint for Detroit customers.

Potential customers concerned about the use of this technology are not alone. The Association for Computing Machinery’s Technology Policy Council also voiced concerns last year, noting that similar technology “has often compromised fundamental human and legal rights of individuals to privacy, employment, justice, and personal liberty.”

James Hendler, the chair of this same council, feels that the airline’s program has safeguards in place to make it an ethical use of facial recognition. He stated that Delta “makes it clear where and how it is being used.”

The use of facial recognition security is optional. Delta also stated that the images captured by their cameras are immediately destroyed.