Bipartisan Senate Proposal to Halt TSA’s Airport Facial Recognition Program

US Senators John Kennedy and Jeff Merkley introduced a bipartisan bill called the Traveler Privacy Protection Act to stop involuntary facial recognition screening at airports. The bill would prevent the TSA from continuing or expanding its facial recognition tech program. It would also require the agency to obtain congressional approval to renew it and dispose of all biometric data within three months. Senator Merkley criticized the TSA’s biometric collection practices, calling it a step towards a national surveillance state. Other Senators supporting the bill include Edward Markey, Roger Marshall, Bernie Sanders, and Elizabeth Warren.

The TSA began testing facial recognition at Los Angeles International Airport in 2018 and planned to expand to over 430 US airports within a few years. Although travelers technically have the option to opt-out, the process is not always transparent, as demonstrated by Senator Merkley in a video he posted on Twitter in September. Advocacy groups like the ACLU, Electronic Privacy Information Center, and Public Citizen have voiced support for the bill, citing privacy risks and discriminatory impacts of facial recognition.

Senator Kennedy emphasized the bill’s importance in protecting Americans from intrusive facial recognition screening, stating that the act would safeguard individuals from government intrusion.