Facial Recognition Technology Is Streamlining Check-in Processes — and Raising Privacy Concerns Facial recognition technology is increasingly being used in the travel industry at airports, theme parks, and cruises. However, the technology has sparked concern due to the lack of federal regulations, as well as questions about accuracy and bias.

By Madeline Garfinkle

Key Takeaways

  • Using facial recognition for tickets, check-ins, and even purchasing alcohol, is quickly becoming commonplace.
  • Some companies are addressing privacy concerns by offering options for anonymization.

Facial recognition technology is rapidly becoming a common feature in the travel industry, streamlining check-in processes at airports, cruise terminals, and theme parks.

Miami International Airport, for example, uses facial recognition to match passengers' faces with passport photos for paperless boarding. U.S. Customs and Border Protection's Global Entry program uses it to expedite immigration checks, and cruise lines, such as Carnival and Holland America, utilize the technology for security and guest services. Theme parks in Abu Dhabi also employ facial recognition for entry and transactions.

While the technology may allow for swift check-ins and transactions, implementation is raising privacy concerns, as biometric data is difficult to change if compromised, The New York Times reported.

Alex Alben, a law professor of privacy, data, and cybersecurity at UCLA and the University of Washington, told the outlet that because there are currently no federal regulations on biometric data, travelers have limited options for recourse if that data is compromised.

However, a few states (California, Virginia, Utah, and Connecticut) are starting to establish laws that would directly govern how biometric data is processed. Also, in the European Union and Britain, companies must seek consumers' consent to gather their data and provide information on its intended use.

Some experts also point out accuracy issues, especially with regard to certain demographic groups. Jeramie D. Scott, director of the Project on Surveillance Oversight at the Electronic Privacy Information Center, told the Times that since the algorithms used by biometric technology companies are not typically shared or tested with the public, "we need to take the company's word about their accuracy."

One activist group, Ban Facial Recognition, has initiated a nationwide petition to halt the use of facial recognition technology, stating that the technology "puts workers in danger, exacerbates bias, and amasses personal data."

Related: Forget Your ID — Your Face Could Verify Your Age When Purchasing Alcohol

Facial recognition is also being used to verify ages at events and liquor stores to confirm if an individual is of drinking age. At Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas, football fans can use CLEAR's ID system and facial recognition on their phones to order alcohol from their seats, while customers at a brewery in Coors Field can verify their age by waving their palms over a scanner, provided they are enrolled in Amazon One's system.

Sam Hall, CFO at CLEAR, told Axios in July that "no information is ever shared with a partner without your explicit consent."

Other companies, such as the Italian facial recognition software company GetPica, are addressing privacy concerns by offering options for anonymization and clear user consent.

"Privacy protection is one of the most important aspects of the system," Dhiren Fonseca, a strategic adviser for GetPica, told The Times, "So we let the users select the level they want."

Madeline Garfinkle

Entrepreneur Staff

News Writer

Madeline Garfinkle is a News Writer at Entrepreneur.com. She is a graduate from Syracuse University, and received an MFA from Columbia University. 

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