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The TSA Thinks Your Fingerprints Would Make a Good Boarding Pass

Getty Images/ Tom Williams / Contributor


While the ability to scan a boarding pass from your phone seemed like a revelation less than a decade ago, the TSA is currently experimenting with a program that could see boarding passes replaced with something way more tied to human DNA: your fingerprints.

The pilot program underway at Hartsfield--Jackson Atlanta International Airport and Denver International Airport uses biometric authentication technology to verify a passenger’s identity through their fingerprints, ultimately shaving time off the boarding process. Still in a nascent stage, the voluntary program is only available to TSA PreCheck and Global Entry members -- who still have to show their passes and IDs while boarding as technological kinks are refined. PreCheck and Global Entry members have already provided TSA with their fingerprints, which are then verified via the program’s scanning technologies and an agency database. 

“TSA looks at technologies and intelligence capabilities that allow us to analyze and secure the travel environment, passengers and their property,” said TSA Acting Assistant Administrator Steve Karoly in a press release. “Through these and other technology demonstrations, we are looking to reinvent and enhance security effectiveness to meet the evolving threat and ensure that passengers get to their destinations safely.”  

Facial scanning has also been floated as a reasonable means of making travel more orderly and efficient: Delta Air Lines -- which has also introduced a fingerprint scanning process -- introduced its own facial scanning program for bag drops to be tested this summer at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, reports the Washington Post.

A hint of paranoia might be warranted when granting one’s fingerprint to TSA -- which is, after all, a division of the Department of Homeland Security. Jeramie Scott, national security counsel for the Electronic Privacy Information Center, told WaPo that facial scanning in particular could be problematic if used as a mass-surveillance tool. Customs and Border Patrol has introduced plans to incorporate mandatory facial screening for people leaving and entering US soil, ushering forth what some officials are calling a worldwide “Biometric Pathway.” 

TSA hasn’t specified how long the proof-of-concept program will last, but the data will be used to determine whether or not fingerprints can potentially replace boarding passes nationwide. 

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Sam Blum is a News Staff Writer for Thrillist. He's also a martial arts and music nerd who appreciates a fine sandwich and cute dogs. Find his clips in The Guardian, Rolling Stone, The A.V. Club and Esquire. He's on Twitter @Blumnessmonster.