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Trading Privacy for Convenience

Washington Post has an article about a test project, which aims to give frequent fliers a quicker pass through security checkpoints, is underway at four US airports. It relies on the latest biometric technologies to verify a passenger’s identity with increased precision. Digital fingerprint scans and photographs are already used to identify foreigners traveling on a visa, and U.S. officials plan to encode a facial recognition technology into passports.

The program offers the first wide application of iris-scanning technology, which had previously been used only for government employees with access to classified sites or for employees with access to nuclear facilities, said Paul Mirenda, director of field operations for LG Electronics Inc., one of the TSA’s contractors that makes the scanners. The technology takes a close-up photograph of the iris, which has more unique characteristics than a fingerprint, and applies digital codes to the photograph to store it as a bar code. The photograph and fingerprint are then stored in a file along with other information about the passenger.

But some security experts worry that terrorists could apply to become a registered traveler and score an easier pass through security checkpoints. “If you look at 9/11 hijackers, some of them would have qualified as frequent fliers. All they had to do is run a few tests and find out what the parameters were and get people registered.”

Travelers who signed up for the program yesterday said they were impressed with the technology and were eager to be afforded special privileges at the checkpoint. None of the enrollees said they had a problem with providing the government with their personal information.

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