Biometrics

TSA set to expand pre-check, biometrics

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Fingerprints play a big role in TSA's pre-screening program.

The Transportation Security Agency plans to dramatically expand its pre-screened passenger security program in the coming months, throwing open online enrollment and expanding the number of airports where travelers can go to provide biometric data.

Starting later this year, any U.S. citizen will be able to apply online and visit specified enrollment sites to provide identification and fingerprints for TSA's Pre Check program. The agency did not specify a date for the start of the online applications process, saying only that it would be later this year. It also plans to expand to additional enrollment sites nationwide, although it did not immediately specify those sites.

Pre Check membership has so far been limited to the members of five major airlines' frequent flyer programs, including Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, United Airlines and US Airways. According to TSA's website, Virgin America plans to participate in the program later this year.

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TSA said it would begin the expansion at two initial enrollment sites where biometric and biographic information would be collected — Washington Dulles International Airport and Indianapolis International Airport.

The Pre Check application program requires a background check, fingerprints, and an anticipated enrollment fee of $85 for a five-year membership.

Once approved though Pre Check, travelers can bypass TSA's regular security lines to specified express lines where they can keep their shoes and belts and get through to their flights faster. They may still be subject to random TSA screening, however.

According to TSA, to date 12 million travelers have used the program at 40 airports nationwide.

TSA already accepts participants in Custom and Border Protection's Global Entry clearance program that allows international travelers to swipe their passports at kiosk checkpoints. The CBP program costs $100 for a five-year enrollment and requires a background check, fingerprinting and a travel questionnaire.

Under the expanded Pre Check plan, according to the agency's official notice, private contractors would handle the system's biometric and biographic information.

An agency spokesman said an upcoming a System of Records Notice (SORN), detailing exactly how the information would be gathered and stored, would be published in the Federal Register. He added TSA would also publish a privacy assessment of the expansion on its website, addressing how sensitive passenger data would be handled.

About the Author

Mark Rockwell is a senior staff writer at FCW, whose beat focuses on acquisition, the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Energy.

Before joining FCW, Rockwell was Washington correspondent for Government Security News, where he covered all aspects of homeland security from IT to detection dogs and border security. Over the last 25 years in Washington as a reporter, editor and correspondent, he has covered an increasingly wide array of high-tech issues for publications like Communications Week, Internet Week, Fiber Optics News, tele.com magazine and Wireless Week.

Rockwell received a Jesse H. Neal Award for his work covering telecommunications issues, and is a graduate of James Madison University.

Click here for previous articles by Rockwell. Contact him at mrockwell@fcw.com or follow him on Twitter at @MRockwell4.


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Reader comments

Thu, Jul 25, 2013

Of course, if they had any sense, they would allow holders of CAC or similar cards, to be enrolled via a data import from existing databases, or just recognize the existing cards as valid traveler cards. Most of us working for DoD have already had more thorough checks that the person wearing the blue uniform.

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