If getting your face scanned at a departure gate or an immigration desk sounds familiar, it could be because you passed through one of 13 airports across the country where the processing technology has been undergoing a pilot program—New York JFK, Miami International, Houston Intercontinental, and Chicago O'Hare included.
Well, now it's out of the test phase in Orlando, and will begin rolling out immediately at all entry and exit points for international fliers, including U.S. citizens, with the hope of 100 percent biometric boarding by October and full implementation, including at customs, by the end of the year.
The technology, which will be put into effect at boarding gates and at immigration kiosks, compares the facial scan of travellers with photos already on file with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), taken from passport, visa, or driver's license photos. CBP says it takes under two seconds to complete the scan and that it has a 99 percent success rate.
Because of the relatively low-lift of installing the technology at departure gates and in arrival halls, officials predict the new technology will be "minimally disruptive to the flow of travel." In fact, officials think the facial recognition cameras could speed up the process at the gate and at arrivals.
(Here's hoping: Using similar technology on a test-run earlier this year, Lufthansa said it was able to board 350 passengers onto an A380 in 20 minutes.) Facial recognition has also been integrated into Global Entry kiosks at Orlando International, which until now had relied solely on fingerprints to verify identity.
But there are reservations about the technology, most of which stem from questions about what the government will do with the collected data. While CBP has said it has "taken steps to safeguard the privacy of all travellers," Skift reports that some privacy advocates have expressed concerns that there is no set of official guidelines about what can and can't be done with the data.
It also isn't clear what the recourse is for a traveller who is wrongly denied boarding or entry because of a technological glitch. Additionally, while U.S. citizens are allowed to opt out of using the facial recognition technology, that isn't widely publicised.