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TSA and border officers are testing new facial recognition technology at LAX

TSA and border officers are testing new facial recognition technology at LAX
The Transportation Security Administration and Customs and Border Protection are testing the use of biometrics at the Tom Bradley International Terminal at Los Angeles International Airport. A TSA agent works next to a camera that uses facial recognition software. (U.S. Customs and Border Protection)

Travelers flying out of the Tom Bradley International Terminal at Los Angeles International Airport are being photographed as part of a pilot program intended to better monitor foreign nationals who are leaving the country.

The 30-day pilot program, a partnership between the Transportation Security Administration and U.S. Customs and Border Protection, is one of several new efforts by the two federal security agencies to use state-of-the-art technology to speed up and bolster the airport screening process.

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Under the program, cameras snap photos of travelers as they prepare to be screened for international flights out of LAX. The photos are optional now but may be mandatory for foreign nationals if the technology is retained after the test. The cameras use facial recognition technology to match up the faces of departing travelers with data collected by government agencies of each foreign national who enters the country.

The technology, according to customs officials, helps quickly identify foreign travelers who may be wanted for crimes, visa violations or attempting to use phony passports. The cameras are being used at four security lanes at the terminal.

“Through the use of biometrics, TSA is taking steps to raise the baseline for aviation security and using technology to improve and streamline the passenger identification process,” TSA chief David Pekoske said in a statement. “Ultimately, we believe this will lead to better security, faster.”

Because LAX is the second-busiest airport in the country, it makes a good testing ground for new technology.

TSA officials have also begun testing an identification authentication system — a device that can automatically read a government-issued ID, verify its authenticity and confirm whether the ID holder is on the passenger list of a plane that is about to board at the airport.

At Terminal 1, the TSA has also been trying out a computed tomography scanner, which utilizes the same technology used to make medical diagnoses. The scanner is taking the place of a traditional X-ray scanner. Whereas an X-ray takes two-dimensional images, the CT scanner can create a 3-D image of the contents of a carry-on bag, which an examining TSA agent can rotate to better identify objects inside.

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