FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Washington, D.C. (Feb.13, 2023) — The International Biometrics + Identity Association (IBIA) is pushing back hard on recent misleading media statements from the offices of Senators Markey, Merkley, Booker, Warren and Sanders calling for the outright ban on the use of face match technology by the Transportation Security Agency (TSA) at major U.S. airports around the country.
“These statements belie a common but incorrect belief about the way these technologies work,” said Robert Tappan, the Managing Director of IBIA. “Either these Senators are not spending the time to understand the technology being implemented, or the Senators themselves are choosing to ignore the reality of the technology,” he said. “If it’s the latter, then at best, it’s political grandstanding. At worst, it’s another example of demonizing a government agency just trying to do a better job on a mission which protects us all,” Tappan added.
First, in their statement, these lawmakers have conflated the terms “surveillance” with “identity verification”. The differences between surveillance and verification are substantial. Surveillance is the active monitoring of people or things, and identity verification in this case is matching a person to their credentials using biometric identifiers like fingerprints or their faces.
Second, the Credential Authentication Technology (or “CAT”) face match program to which the Senators refer in their statement is being used at the entrance of TSA checkpoints at airports. CAT is a face match, not a face recognition technology. Face match technology ensures that the individual standing in front of the CAT machine matches the photo on the identification that has been supplied by the traveler, known as a 1:1 face match. Similarly, the CAT technology also verifies whether the identification credential itself is real or fake. There is no backend database retaining the information.
Third, the Senators’ claim that Americans are “encountering a decision [either] to travel or safeguard their privacy - a decision that threatens our democracy…” is simply a false choice and a complete misstatement of the facts. “Every American passenger knows that if they are traveling by commercial airplane, they will have to provide some sort of credible identification containing personal information — whether it is a driver’s license or a passport containing a picture of one’s face and other uniquely-identifiable characteristics, or being able to use one’s face — in order to verify their identity,” Tappan said. “That’s a choice between traveling or not traveling by air — not a choice between traveling and privacy,” he added.
In another example of conflating face matching with face identification or recognition, the five Senators claim that face recognition technology discriminates and misidentifies people of color disproportionately more than other groups. The statement is misleading, and not supported by the same 2019 National Institutes of Standards and Technology (NIST) testing cited by the Senators. For the top-performing algorithms from IBIA members, including those used by our government, demographic differentials were extremely small. In addition, the IBIA member company algorithms showed higher identification accuracy than almost all those performed by human examiners.
Finally, the Senators’ call for the ability to opt-out of face matching is already in place with visible signage as a part of the workflow at security checkpoints. Passengers are made plainly aware of their ability to opt-out, as TSA also maintains its option of traditional agent-based manual verification of credentials like drivers’ licenses and passports.
“These misleading and outright erroneous claims about biometrics are meant to frighten Americans into distrusting TSA personnel and the vital identification technologies that, in fact, help make their lives safer, easier, and more hygienic,” Tappan said. “A web page posting of the release claims that the enhanced TSA process ‘threatens our democracy’. What really threatens our democracy is prominent legislators telling Americans that they should fear and mistrust government agencies that are simply trying to perform the vital missions with which the American people have charged them,” Tappan added.
“IBIA is, at its core, is an advocacy and educational organization representing the biometrics and identity technologies industry. IBIA welcomes the opportunity to engage with policymakers to help them better understand these technologies, answer their questions, and clear-up any misconceptions they may have about the safe and secure usage and implementation of biometric solutions,” Tappan concluded.
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About IBIA: International Biometrics + Identity Association advances the adoption and responsible use of technology-based identification solutions to enhance security and privacy and to facilitate convenience and productivity for government, businesses, and consumers. To effectively carry out its mission, IBIA focuses on three core activities: Advocacy, Connections, and Education. For more information, please visit our website at www.ibia.org .
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