Woman talking(l+r), TSA precheck(c)

David Tran Photo/Shutterstock @thesashapiton/Tiktok (Licensed)

‘I have to do what the policies tell me’: TSA PreCheck customer shows unexpected reason new ID system failed at airport

'It’s absurd that they refused to use their 2 eyeballs to ID you.'


Phil West


Posted on May 15, 2024   Updated on May 17, 2024, 5:02 pm CDT

A woman says she was rejected multiple times while attempting to go through an airport security checkpoint despite having TSA PreCheck. The system purportedly didn’t recognize her multiple times for a reason that an actual live human being was able to figure out shortly after being summoned to the scene.

The airport fail was chronicled by traveler and TikToker Sasha Piton (@thesashapiton), who posted the story on April 30 and has gathered more than 2.9 million views and nearly 118,000 likes since then.

Piton begins, “So at TSA, now they have you put your ID into a machine, and then they take a picture of your face. And the two have to match for you to continue on.” She says that when it failed to recognize her three different times, personnel called a supervisor down to see what was going on.

“I’m, like, pulled off to the side with my TSA PreCheck, which means I had to have a background check to be in this line at all,” she assesses. She says she asked the supervisor if he could just look at her ID and look at her face to determine that she was indeed who her ID said she was.

“Ma’am, I have to do what the policies tell me, and right now, we’re using the system,” the supervisor reportedly declared. Piton says that after it failed again, the supervisor suggested, “Ma’am, take off your glasses.” Lo and behold, the presence of glasses was throwing the system off, and she was allowed to proceed to her gate.

In an on-screen caption to close out the video, Piton remarks, “I had no idea I was like Clark Kent,” with a screenshot of her ID (with a sans-glasses photo) showing the difference.

@thesashapiton Ehat happens when the AI is wrong?? 😂 #tsa #airport #mistakenidentity #fyp ♬ original sound – Sasha Piton

What’s the deal with TSA’s facial recognition?

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) site says, regarding its facial recognition technology, “The facial recognition technology represents a significant security enhancement and improves traveler convenience. A traveler may voluntarily agree to use their face to verify their identity during the screening process by presenting their physical identification or passport. The facial recognition technology TSA uses helps ensure the person standing at the checkpoint is the same person pictured on the identification document (ID) credential. Photos are not stored or saved after a positive ID match has been made, except in a limited testing environment for evaluation of the effectiveness of the technology.”

Glasses are not mentioned in the text as a complicating factor.

TSA spokesperson R. Carter Langston, reached by phone, said, “TSA is aware of the video that is posted to social media and we are reviewing it. TSA is grounding its exploration of facial recognition solutions in rigorous scientific study and analysis to include alignment with National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) standards and applies stringent safeguards for traveler privacy and convenience. Photos are not stored or saved after a positive ID match has been made, except in a limited testing environment for evaluation of the effectiveness of the technology. All testing protocols conducted since 2019 have indicated the system works very well at matching the live photo with the photo on the identification credential.”

He also added, “TSA is using facial recognition technology in CAT-2 units at more than 80 airports across the country to improve transportation security effectiveness, efficiency, and the passenger experience. This technology is optional for airline passengers.”

Commenters were amused by the spectacle(s)

“Robots are going to take over the world!” one mock declared before adding, “The robots getting confused by glasses.”

“I’m baffled the staff didn’t have you take off your glasses sooner,” a second wrote. “They see it enough. I’ve had to take off my glasses before.”

Several echoed the TSA’s own advice that people can opt out of using the facial recognition method for a manual check, despite what the supervisor supposedly told Piton.

One shared, “The first time I pushed back the lady was like ‘imma have to get my supervisor’ and I told her to go ahead.”

The Daily Dot has reached out to Sasha Piton via TikTok direct message.

Update 5:02pm CT, May 17: In a direct message to the Daily Dot, Piton clarified that she had taken off her glasses “for all but the first scan.”

“So my glasses were off for three of the four scans and then even the TSA agent needed me to take my glasses off to confirm I was matching my ID,” she wrote

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*First Published: May 15, 2024, 6:00 pm CDT