Kennedy, Merkley introduce bill to end involuntary facial recognition screenings

Published 1:40 pm Wednesday, November 29, 2023

U.S. Sen. John Kennedy, R-Louisiana, today joined Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., in introducing the Traveler Privacy Protection Act of 2023 to safeguard Americans from facial recognition screenings that the federal government is implementing at airports across the country. The bill would repeal the Transportation Security Administration’s (TSA) authorization to use facial recognition and prevent the agency from further exploiting the technology and storing traveler’s biodata.

“Every day, TSA scans thousands of Americans’ faces without their permission and without making it clear that travelers can opt out of the invasive screening. The Traveler Privacy Protection Act would protect every American from Big Brother’s intrusion by ending the facial recognition program,” Kennedy said.

“The TSA program is a precursor to a full-blown national surveillance state. Nothing could be more damaging to our national values of privacy and freedom. No government should be trusted with this power,” Merkley said.

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Despite the TSA calling its plan to implement facial scans at more than 430 U.S. airports voluntary, passengers are largely unaware of their ability to opt out. Moreover, TSA does not effectively display notices at its check points to inform travelers that they have such an option.

To rectify this, the Traveler Privacy Protection Act of 2023 would:

  • Require explicit congressional authorization in order for the TSA to use facial recognition technology in the future.
  • Immediately ban the TSA from expanding its pilot facial recognition program.
  • Require TSA to end its pilot facial recognition program and dispose of facial biometrics.

Sens. Roger Marshall (R-Kan.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) also cosponsored the legislation.