Mar 15 2023

TSA confirms plans to mandate mug shots for domestic air travel

In an on-stage interview yesterday at South By Southwest by a reporter for the Dallas Morning News, the head of the US Transportation Security Administration made explicit that the TSA plans to make collection of biometric data  mandatory for airline travel:

According to a report in today’s edition of the newspaper by Alexandra Skores on the statements by TSA Administrator David Pekoske:

Biometric technology, such as facial recognition, is increasingly being used in TSA’s identity verification process….

He said passengers can also choose to opt out of certain screening processes if they are uncomfortable, for now. Eventually, biometrics won’t be optional, he said.

Mandatory mugshots for all airline passengers have been part of the TSA’s road map since at least 2018, despite objections such as those raised by the ACLU and the Identity Project.

TSA Privacy Impact Assessments have claimed that air travelers could, for now, opt out, of mug shots, but the TSA has never complied with the notice requirements in the federal Privacy Act and Paperwork Reduction Act (PRA).

So far as we can tell, there’s never been any PRA approval for collection of biometrics from domestic air travelers, or any PRA notice at a TSA checkpoint.

Since the TSA has never applied to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) for approval of this information collection, as required by the PRA, we don’t know what legal basis it would claim for this collection of biometric information.

As at US Customs and Border Protection inspection stations and kiosks for international travelers, domestic travelers asked to submit to mug shots at TSA checkpoints  are protected not only by the US Constitution and international treaties but also by federal laws including the PRA. As with declining to show ID or provide other information, you have the right not to provide biometric information unless and until the TSA gets approval from OMB to collect this information, and provides notices that comply with the PRA.

In 2021, the TSA tried to get Congress to exempt some of its activities from the PRA. But Congress turned it down, making clear that Congress intends the PRA to apply to the TSA.

For now, it remains the law (44 U.S.C. § 3512) that:

(a) Notwithstanding any other provision of law, no person shall be subject to any penalty for failing to comply with a collection of information that is subject to this subchapter if—

(1) the collection of information does not display a valid control number assigned by the Director [of the Office of Management and Budget] in accordance with this subchapter; or

(2) the agency fails to inform the person who is to respond to the collection of information that such person is not required to respond to the collection of information unless it displays a valid control number.

(b) The protection provided by this section may be raised in the form of a complete defense, bar, or otherwise at any time during the agency administrative process or judicial action applicable thereto.

Unless and until this changes, no matter what the TSA says, you do have the right to opt of facial imaging at TSA checkpoints.

25 thoughts on “TSA confirms plans to mandate mug shots for domestic air travel

  1. Pingback: TSA Head: Mug Shots To Become Mandatory For Air Travel [Roundup] - View from the Wing

  2. Seems like the Biden Administration is pushing for this form of identity invasion. Why do you need mugshots if we’re not criminals? Aha, that’s just it, every flyer is actually treated like a paying criminal.

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  4. Pingback: Chef de la TSA: les photos d'identité deviendront obligatoires pour les voyages en avion [Roundup] - Vue depuis l'aile - Travel News

  5. This just happened to me for the 1st time yesterday at TSA Precheck SWAirlines. You slide your ID into a reader (like a CC at the store) step in front of the screen and your pic is taken… which you can see asap. It was extremely quick and easy. The agent did not touch my ID at all.

  6. To the commenter who wants to blame President Biden, please apply reading comprehension. This has been planned since 2018. What one- term, twice-impeached person was President in 2018? Did you have outrage then, or was it just called make airport security great again?

  7. This is similar to CLEAR with the exception being that CLEAR stores your biometrics at enrollment and the photo it snaps at check in is compared to your enrollment photo and other docs/Id. Aaaand, CLEAR is authorized to collect such data.

  8. It’s getting about as bad as those documentaries I’ve watched of life in the Soviet Union, where people were constantly getting IDed simply to walk across the street.

  9. Last time I checked, getting on an airplane was a private transaction between the airline and me. Either party can back out- the airline can refuse you as a customer, and I can no show. As far as I’m concerned, this isn’t so much about TSA per se, but me using the services of a for-profit company. If they want to demand that I do something, and I still want to use their services after stated , then I do the “something.” I don’t feel my rights are being trampled on here, at all. It’s really hard to go to Japan in a car.

    The TSA, although a federal government institution, ultimately will follow the money. If enough people no show because of these requirements, I would bet they’d become different. I, for one, don’t mind. Call me a sheeple, call me whatever you want, but sashimi is better there than here, sooooo……

    My point: you DO have rights. You also have choice. What you do with those rights and choices… Is up to you.

  10. @Jeff – Federal law recognizes “the public right of transit through the navigable airspace”, and requires the TSA to respect this right. An airline is a “common carrier”. In order to be licensed to operate as a common carrier, an airline must agree to transport all passengers willing to pay the fare in its tariff. It may not pick and choose which customers to accept. For good reason: A long line of civil rights case law derives from litigation to protect disfavored travelers against discrimination by common carriers and in transportation facilities.

  11. I want to be the Director of TSA and issue mandatory strip search for all female passengers. I want these searches documented with full frontal and rear pictures.

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  13. Pingback: TSA Confirms Biometric Scanning Soon Won’t Be Optional Even For Domestic Travelers | Techdirt

  14. Pingback: TSA Confirms Biometric Scanning Soon Won’t Be Optional Even For Domestic Travelers – The Linkielist

  15. Pingback: TSA confirms plans to mandate mug shots for domestic air travel - neweu

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  18. Complete collection of bio-metric data on everyone in the world has always been a goal of the people who really run things. Technology has only recently made this a real possibility. While you all bicker about who was president during what time frame, or what is public and what is private, your rights as a human being are disappearing and there will be nowhere to hide and no way to resist.

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  20. Pingback: Senate bill introduced to ban TSA use of facial recognition in airports – Papers, Please!

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