In this Twitter exchange, jetBlue explains to a passenger how it got a photo of her face -- from the DHS

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I went through this process re-entering the US after a cruise. It was buggy, with your face having to line up directly in the box and held for a couple seconds, and a number of other pax had issues holding themselves still. There was a manual override provided when the system couldn’t read the face.



Never mind if JetBlue has her photo. Why does the DHS have the photo and a file on her? How many other Americans not currently under investigation is the DHS maintaining files on?


I wonder where those APIs are hosted and if one could find the documentation to use them. Would be fun to place a kiosk up in your local government house that prints out publicly available personal information about every government official that goes to have a look at it.

You know, to raise awareness.


Probably has to do with the Real ID program. Illinois held out as long as possible before finally caving when TSA threatened to pull out of O’Hare. In illinois, you can still choose to obtain a driver’s license that is not Real ID compliant, but you wont be able to fly with it. Big brother indeed.



REAL ID compliant credential:
The new REAL ID compliant driver’s license and identification card can also be used for all of the same purposes as a standard credential.”

“However, beginning October 1, 2020 , the federal government will require you to present this upgraded REAL ID compliant credential or another form of approved identification in order to board a domestic flight or to access secure federal facilities.” -DMV Va

“The requirement that states collect a digital facial image/photograph of all driver’s license applicants that is facial recognition compatible. Until the signing of the Real ID Act 2005 into law many states and territories were still using a low resolution, analog photograph that was not facial recognition compatible. The analog photograph used was not facial recognition compatible because of the very high error rate associated with low resolution photographs when facial recognition software was or is used. It should be noted that a low resolution analog photograph is just as human recognizable on a driver’s license as the high resolution digital facial image Real ID calls for.”

The Real ID Act calls for state DMV database linking.”


Last I knew airlines such as jetBlue were not part of DHS or any other law enforcement agency. Milking the database for facial recognition boarding passes seems not cool.

Once at the TSA check point should be enough right?


International flights only. Passport required.

Passport has photo.

Passport photos have been digitized for quite a while. Last time my passport had a real photo laminated into it was issued in 2001, change happened shortly thereafter.

Give airline passport number when booking flight.

DHS gets your passport photo from Dept of State.

Jet Blue sends photo to DHS. Some turk, mechanical or otherwise, compares the two.

DHS returns yeah or nea.

NOTE: Jet Blue site references only international flights. Doesn’t mention Real ID or any domestic use.


International flight. Passport required. Passport has digital image. DHS gets it from DoS.


I know that there are times when there’s no practical alternative, but I truly believe that flying these days is so fraught with personal intrusions and hassles that’s it’s really not worth it. I haven’t been on an airplane in more than a decade, and I am inclined to keep it that way.


As someone who lives in America and likes to travel outside of their state from time to time, there’s no practical alternative at all, unless you like to spend multiple days of your extremely limited vacation time driving rather than arriving in a few hours.


International flight. This is key to the story and overlooked by many commentators.

If the airline doesn’t verify passport (and visa, if needed) then the airline is on the hook for having to put you on the next flight back to origin.

Even stickier if the passenger doesn’t have the right to return to the origin of the first flight because that just leads to terrible movies.




Correlation ≠ causation, Polly.

That it was an international flight does NOT mean that people commenting are somehow “wrong” to feel alarmed by the ever-more apparent authoritarian surveillance state.


We’re losing aren’t we


So, jetBlue has been FIFED by DHS.

I’m sure that we can trust a commercial airline with our personal ID’s. Nothing to worry about. They have our CC info already. What could go wrong?


Many days, it does seem that way.



Not overlooked in the least. Just not relevant. JetBlue is getting ahead of the game by pulling from the DHS database. Hopefully you wont be surprised in October 2020.


@comedian’s point is that one question, “where did DHS get my facial biometric data in the first place?” is answered by the fact that she needed a passport. All modern passport photos are in State Dept. database. The biometric data is even recorded in a convenient format on an RFID under the passport’s cover. It has been like this for more than a decade (as my first passport with that technology just expired). If you are in TSA’s Trusted Traveler program (the thing that gets you out of porno-scanners) or the international Global Entry program, you have another photo and biometric measure on file. And honestly, if you’ve traveled abroad you almost certainly have your photo (hence biometric measurement) on file with that country, too, as well as (most commonly) the fingerprints for your two index fingers.

Now, that’s really the start of things. That answers the immediate question. As @Akimbo_NOT points out, the wake of 9/11 led to (another) push for what is called “Real ID” – that is, to make state IDs verifiable documents, and not just some sometimes-laminated-sometimes-not piece of paper. Back then, states balked at the unfunded mandate. Today, the U.S. government is pushing again, this time using air travel as a cudgel.

Now, if you want to really get someone at the EFF going about this, ask them about how this inevitably is fully-integrated with IDENT and NGI through the Electronic Biometric Transmission Standard (which networks all government biometrics databases through a common standard for interoperability.

I don’t believe he said it was wrong to feel alarmed. If anything, I’d expect you to be progressively more alarmed. That being said, you should be alarmed at the power of the state, less the power of JetBlue.


We should clarify, these photos aren’t provided to us, but are securely transmitted to the Customs and Border Protection database. JetBlue does not have direct access to the photos and doesn’t store them.

Would love more info about how my image was matched to a name on the flight manifest. I looked at the camera & a few seconds later the gate opened. Was my image, in the space of those seconds, sent to CBP, run through a database, matched to a name, and then sent back to @JetBlue?

Not to comment on the ethics of this, but from a technical standpoint this sounds perfectly possible.

The biometric data held by DHS will be in the form of metrics – numbers defining the various measurements of your face. When the JetBlue cameras captured the face, they will have generated the same metrics, sent those over, and DHS will confirm that those metrics could reasonably belong to Joe Shmoe.

So this won’t be a case of DHS trying to quickly match images in a huge database in a couple of seconds.

Again, this is sketchy in its own way, but JetBlue doesn’t have an existing photo of the passenger, as the journalist and the BB headline imply.