The sixth largest airline in the U.S. is pushing for shorter lines at the airport by scanning your fingerprint. It wants to replace travel documents like passport and driver’s license to let flyers get through check-in quicker. The airline says it has been testing a pilot program since August and is in the process of convincing the TSA that biometrics is safe.
At the same time, the TSA has been under immense pressure to move more and more passengers through a trusted traveler process. They claim they meet that with 50% of travelers eligible for precheck, a figure that includes crew and not just passengers.
They seem themselves as having tapped out the retail signup market, or at least being limited through those channels to arithmetric growth, and are looking to private companies to grow the PreCheck enterprise – some of whom see the key to success as eliminating the need for fingerprinting.
One sticking point for some would-be contractors is a planned requirement to collect fingerprint data, which can only be done in person. The ease of applying entirely online would likely attract far more applicants than a process that requires making an appointment and showing up to be fingerprinted. The president of likely bidder Eid Passport, James Robell, told the Wall Street Journal’s Scott McCartney that the potential market could be 10 million without the fingerprint requirement, but only 10% of that with fingerprinting. Robell said that industry has developed other ways to validate identity without using biometrics. I’ve also been told that it is possible to do criminal history checks without having a person’s fingerprints.
Either your papers will no longer be enough to fly in the future — or there will be so much data out there about you that your biometrics won’t be necessary. My own hunch – and it’s just a function of my priors more than anything else — is that biometrics won’t actually be necessary but at some point will be required anyway.
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