Boarding Your Next International Flight From the US Might Require a Retinal Scan

a close-up of an eye

It’s not enough that you may be required to show your identification to get off a domestic US flight, now you could be subject to a retinal scan by US Marshals, after you’ve started boarding.

Customs & Border patrol officials required passengers on a flight from San Francisco to New York Wednesday night to show their IDs in order to disembark.

Officials were in search of  a legal immigrant who was being deported for multiple criminal convictions.

Now there’s even more alarming news (h/t: Amanda). Apparently US Marshals are requiring retinal scans on some international flights (out of Atlanta). After you’ve already had your ticket scanned and your passport checked.

Halfway down the jetbridge, there was a new layer of security. Two US Marshals, heavily armed and dressed in dystopian-style black regalia, stood next to an upright machine with a glowing green eye. Every passenger, one by one, was told to step on a mat and look into the green scanner. It was scanning our eyes and matching that scan with the passport, which was also scanned (yet again).

At which point you don’t have many options for preserving your privacy. Yes, you could decide to refuse and forfeit your ticket, but even then turning around would probably be viewed as suspicious and subject you to even more invasive information gathering measures.

I value national security, but not at all costs. I’ve already volunteered a lot of my information, including finger prints, when I applied for Global Entry, but I find the idea of a mandatory retinal scan very alarming. Opting out seems problematic at best.

What do you think?

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  1. I don’t like this but it’s possible there could be some current terrorist threat that we aren’t aware of. Personally I think it’s overkill. It reminds me of the movie “Minority Report”.
    Oh and for people to just try and blame Trump for this is really naive in my opinion. Obama supported and kept the Patriot Act in place for 8 years. National security crosses all lines.

  2. Considering that the US has this hard-to-understand exit procedure where no one stamps your passport, some kind of exit ritual would bring it to international standards. I don’t see why you have to make a big deal of exit checks, but it can certainly be an international standard passport control spot. And then, why would any government agency have your biometric retinal information in the first place? As far I as I know, I’ve never registered any such information with an agency.

  3. Delta did two extra security checks prior to boarding at MUC(to ATL) last year.
    Two separate sets of questions while boarding. One prior to the jetway, one ON the jetway.
    Perhaps they are matching up processes outbound too?
    Considering we have GE and CLEAR(which takes prints and pics) not sure how much more can be learned form these additional processes.

  4. Wait a minute. I have GE and never had to get a retinal scan for it. What is the purpose of doing a retinal scan when there is nothing in the database to compare it to?

    I suspect this is possibly “fake news”?

      1. Keri – I’m not saying that this is fake news but the cbp link that you provided to prove that it isn’t fake news, doesn’t reference this retina scan program. It instead references a facial profiling test in Atlanta that by the terms of the link ended on September 30, 2016 and was on a flights to Japan not Mexico.

        The article that you originally refer to has a few holes as well. For example, they are allegedly taking a retina scan and comparing it to the passport, but the passport doesn’t contain retina scan information. So what are they comparing exactly? I’m guessing that the original article is missing some key information. Are they really doing retina scans? Is this a continuation of the facial profiling program (which makes more sense)? The information here isn’t enough to provide any clarity.

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