TSA Airport Security: Is it time for a Trusted Traveler biometric program?

by Chris on December 2, 2010

Is a Trusted Traveler program, endorsed by the U.S. Travel Association, the security solution for the TSA?

Iris recognition, biometrics, airport security, Amsterdam Schiphol Airport

Last night marked the first time that I had flown since the TSA instituted the X-ray scanners and enhanced pat-downs. As I drove to the airport, I worried about my choices. Among my many concerns, I think the scanners violate privacy – yet who wants to be subject to a patdown that feels more like a grope?

Turns out I didn’t have to choose, as SEA-TAC’s airport security had the new backscatter machines turned off (I went through a regular metal detector instead). But the whole thing made me think about whether the TSA could institute a “trusted traveler” program that allows vetted frequent flyers easier access through security.

It’s an idea supported by the U.S. Travel Association. The organization, which promotes the interests of the travel industry, has called upon the government to consider such a measure, especially because the Department of Homeland Security is already working with airlines and online reservation systems on Secure Flight, where manifests of  domestic and inbound passengers are checked against ’s announcement government watch lists.

As the USTA envisions it, a Trusted Traveler program would allow those flyers who voluntarily share biometric and biographical information, pass robust background checks and are verified by TSA at the time of travel to pass through an alternative security process. If the TSA did that, they could “”enable the shift of security resources from a large pool of “low-risk” travelers to allow a more sustained focus on a smaller pool of travelers who are not pre-screened.” the group said in a release.

This vision of a Trusted Traveler system sounds like an enhanced version of the CLEAR program, which charged a fee (and only allowed members to go to the front of the security line, not undergo an alternative screening). I’ve seen other countries implement eye scans at passport control when traveling internationally and it seems quick and easy. The U.K.’s IRIS program earns high marks; passengers are often cleared in 20 seconds or less.

Sounds smart to me.

What do you think – would you sign up for a biometric security program if it meant skipping current TSA procedures?

| Chris Gray Faust is a veteran journalist, travel expert, social media butterfly - and editrix of this site. Like what you read? Check out her writing, editing and social media services.

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Gary Arndt December 2, 2010 at 5:52 am

Terrorists could recruit people with a clean criminal record to get in the program. .

No matter what you do, there is a way to game the system.

60% of the tests done (over 20,000 since 9/11) by TSA fail to get caught by security checks. More machines and programs will just be theater until they can get the basics right.

In the end, it just sounds like a way for innocent people to give their biometric data to the government.


Kristina December 4, 2010 at 12:48 pm

A lot of frequent flyers are complaining about the inconvenience and invasion of privacy issues against TSA. Gary’s right. As much as I’d like to be part of a trusted traveler program but anyone can maintain a clean record with a hidden agenda.

Somewhat, somehow I fear terrorists will find ways how to breach these security measures.


Max March 4, 2011 at 5:32 am

I think – it’s all because of money. The government gives money to fight against terrorism and airport security need to spend it.


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