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EPIC urges TSA to consider other options to expanding biometric identifiers for Pre-check


Privacy rights organization Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) urged the Transportation Security Administration to consider other options for expanding the collection of biometric identifiers for the TSA Pre-Check application.

In its comments to the agency, EPIC explained the dangers of biometric identifiers being used for purposes other than determining eligibility for Pre-Check, along with the many personal privacy risks for applicants if the databases related to Pre-Check were breached,

Additionally, the organization proposed privacy enhancing alternatives, including limiting the storage of biometric identifiers or providing data on how to delete information from databases associated with Pre-Check.

“The revision would allow for security threat assessments done as part of the Pre-Check enrollment process to be used for programs with comparable requirements,” EPIC wrote in its comments to the agency. “Additionally, applicant’s biometric information may be used in TSA’s Biometric Authentication Technology (BAT) effort, which will use biometrics is in place of boarding passes to authenticate the identity of TSA Pre-Check applicants at airport security checkpoints.”

“Pursuant to the agency’s request, the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) submits these comments to (1) highlight the increased privacy and security risk of expanding the use and continued dissemination of biometric information; (2) call attention to the rising potential for mission creep; and (3) propose an alternative course of action for storage of biometrics for Pre-Check applicants.”

As part of its mandated practices, EPIC regularly highlights the risks of large, overly broad government databases and the privacy risks associated with the collection of biometric data.

In other TSA news, the agency announced that the TSA Pre-Check program has reached more than 5 million enrolled users.

Since launching its first application center in December 2013, TSA Pre-Check has opened more than 390 application centers nationwide, including locations at 44 airports.

“By growing the trusted traveler population, we help our officers focus on potential threats, which strengthens the security screening process and ultimately provides better security for all travelers,” said TSA Acting Administrator Huban A. Gowadia. “We will continue our efforts to further expand the TSA Pre-Check program, with the ultimate goal of providing the most effective security in the most efficient way.”

Earlier this year, the TSA announced that 11 new participating domestic and foreign airlines have joined the PreCheck program, which brings the total number of participating airlines to 30.

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