Seattle Airport Resists Federal Push for Facial Recognition


Facial recognition technology won’t be installed at the boarding gates of the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. This makes the airport the first in the country to resist the rollout of a federal biometric identification program. 

After hours of people calling facial recognition technology intrusive and dangerous, the Port of Seattle Commission unanimously approved an interim on some uses of the technology. The Commission, which includes five members, oversees Sea-tac and suspended the introduction of some new forms of biometric technologies including facial recognition scans. This suspension is until the commission adopts ‘tangible, enforceable’ policies to govern the use of these technologies. 

The commission’s decision prevents Delta Air Lines’ plans to roll out facial recognition cameras at its Sea-Tac boarding gates by the end of this year. The moratorium applies to the areas under the control of Port.

This means that a Custom and Border Protection plan to establish facial recognition scans at a new facility in order to process international travelers opening July 2020 will go as planned. 

According to Eric Scheinfeld, the Port’s federal government liaison, Sea-Tac airport is the first airport in the country to resist some control over the rollout of facial recognition at airports. At the meeting, Commissioner Courtney Gregoire said, ‘The recommendation could be that we don’t think the technology is ready to use right now.’ 

By late June, the commission will vote on the policy recommendations. Until that time, the pause on the introduction of new biometric technologies is in effect.