After catching a flight with JetBlue, Twitter user MacKenzie Fegan noticed something rather odd and a little bit disturbing.
When she reached out about it to the airline on Twitter, it started a conversation about privacy and technology that's gone viral for its unsettling implications.
I just boarded an international @JetBlue flight. Instead of scanning my boarding pass or handing over my passport,… https://t.co/CcjWDHEbMz— MacKenzie Fegan (@MacKenzie Fegan) 1555508470.0
It turns out JetBlue has been experimenting with new facial recognition technology to confirm passenger's identities as they board flights.
@mackenzief You're able to opt out of this procedure, MacKenzie. Sorry if this made you feel uncomfortable.— JetBlue Airways (@JetBlue Airways) 1555509198.0
Fegan pushed the question even farther, asking some very pertinent questions about how exactly JetBlue had data on what her face looked like.
@JetBlue Follow up question. Presumably these facial recognition scanners are matching my image to something in ord… https://t.co/pUUY9SzitO— MacKenzie Fegan (@MacKenzie Fegan) 1555529406.0
@mackenzief The information is provided by the United States Department of Homeland Security from existing holdings.— JetBlue Airways (@JetBlue Airways) 1555531724.0
Of course, JetBlue's answer did little to comfort Fegan:
@JetBlue So to be clear, the government provided my biometric data to a privately held company? Did I consent to th… https://t.co/KgAT9HAc6K— MacKenzie Fegan (@MacKenzie Fegan) 1555533383.0
@mackenzief We should clarify, these photos aren't provided to us, but are securely transmitted to the Customs and… https://t.co/8pGvCX9ljT— JetBlue Airways (@JetBlue Airways) 1555538165.0
Their answers quite seem to be adding up...
@JetBlue Would love more info about how my image was matched to a name on the flight manifest. I looked at the came… https://t.co/R0rQICut0O— MacKenzie Fegan (@MacKenzie Fegan) 1555541575.0
@mackenzief You can learn more about the process here: https://t.co/wDZYiNNhoY.— JetBlue Airways (@JetBlue Airways) 1555543141.0
Eventually, the JetBlue Twitter account punted Fegan's questions to an article about their procedure.
But the article ultimately raised EVEN MORE questions.
@JetBlue “There is no pre-registration required.” I’ll say! This press release really doesn’t tell me anything abou… https://t.co/U1lGhy5zGD— MacKenzie Fegan (@MacKenzie Fegan) 1555545163.0
JetBlue continued trying to assuage Fegan's fears by providing additional articles...
@mackenzief @EFF We found another article that might be interesting to you: https://t.co/yT1v05VRYX It talks a bit… https://t.co/my2H9ZXOLh— JetBlue Airways (@JetBlue Airways) 1555592877.0
...but the articles only made it clear that opting out of the procedure was ultimately ineffective if one was trying to maintain one's privacy.
@JetBlue @EFF “It took her photo, comparing her picture to a preloaded photo database of all the passengers with ti… https://t.co/zMUIf5MnAt— MacKenzie Fegan (@MacKenzie Fegan) 1555593992.0
Twitter was pretty disturbed by the conversation's implications.
@mackenzief @JetBlue If we're going to be doing Black Mirror IRL I would prefer to start with San Junipero please— Everything Is Alive (@Everything Is Alive) 1555512498.0
This thread between a passenger and airline should terrify you. DHS is using facial recognition software at airport… https://t.co/3ryRPGeTyy— marisa kabas (@marisa kabas) 1555784370.0
Though JetBlue seems to treat this technology fairly casually, many people regard it as a serious issue.
This is a *very* interesting thread on where we’re heading with facial recognition. We’re sleepwalking into somethi… https://t.co/7xZl5a8Usd— James Ball (@James Ball) 1555760190.0
The future will be creepy. https://t.co/8ZAKHIgQaE— John Sweeney (@John Sweeney) 1555772199.0
Multiple studies have shown how ineffective face-scanning can be in specific law-enforcement scenarios, especially those involving people of color.
@mackenzief @JetBlue This happened to me for an international flight from Dulles - only it didn’t work on this brow… https://t.co/m6LwipJiYq— Vikram J. Singh (@Vikram J. Singh) 1555706551.0
@VJS_Policy @mackenzief @JetBlue the code for this stuff ... well... reflects the (silicon valley) people who wrote… https://t.co/OzOEPD68NH— No idea ☘ (@No idea ☘) 1555763170.0
Everyone should be concerned about violations of privacy, even if you have nothing to hide.
@dirktherabbit @LambrettaGT205 @mackenzief @JetBlue This is the next big story. I used to think 'nothing to hide, n… https://t.co/6NsNc8pFEd— Mike Hind (@Mike Hind) 1555781114.0
@MikeH_PR @dirktherabbit @LambrettaGT205 @mackenzief @JetBlue The key thing to remember with ‘nothing to hide’ is t… https://t.co/7ke9Wy4BOv— neil seymour (@neil seymour) 1555784367.0
If this technology concerns you, the time to speak out about is NOW, because once it's been fully implemented there's no way to "opt-out."
@kimlehmkuhl @mackenzief @JetBlue The problem with "opting out:" in order for this to work in the first place, they… https://t.co/xHBiEf28C1— glroman (@glroman) 1555636305.0
The future is looking pretty scary.