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Facial recognition could be coming to Charlotte Douglas International Airport

It's an upgrade with mixed reviews, but one that could come to an airport near you. Officials say if it's implemented, travelers can opt-out.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The future of flying could soon change in Charlotte. 

Charlotte Douglas International Airport is actively looking into facial recognition technology: taking your picture as a way of getting through customs. 

It's already being used in more than a dozen other airports. Now, officials want it to be here by the time the Republican National Convention takes place in 2020.  

The technology is pretty simple. As you go to check-in for an international flight, you would walk up to a camera on a screen. It would take a picture of you, then match that with your passport picture already in the government's database. 

Some travelers are open to the idea, especially with the goal of improving line efficiency. 

"Hopefully it will get the lines to move through quickly and efficiently," said Angela Joseph, a traveler.

But some aren't so sure. 

"Very concerned, very concerned," said Jewel Asare, a traveler.

Facial recognition technology would make it easier to travel internationally in and out of Charlotte Douglas. Barry Chastain is the U.S. Custom and Border Protection official who oversees North Carolina. He says it allows them to use facial technology to verify you're the correct bearer of the document. 

"People that come into the country now ... sometimes enter with false travel documents," Chastain said.

Here's how it would work: international travelers would walk up to a camera kiosk. It would take a photo of the traveler and compare it to the passport photo. If it matches, that's it, good to go. 

"Just another tool for our officers to help them do their jobs in protecting U.S. citizens," Chastain said. 

For travelers, it's a mix of reactions. Some travelers, like Angela Joseph, focus on efficiency.

"I think it's a great idea," Joseph said. "I think it would be more efficient, hopefully, the travelers would be able to get through the line more quickly and easier."

While other travelers are concerned about other impacts it could have. 

"I don't know if it's going to store our information for the use of other things," Jewel Asare, a traveler, said. "I'm not sure how I would feel about that."

Some experts are concerned too.

"This is a system that is too dangerous to deploy," said Matt Cagle with the American Civil Liberties Union. "It allows the government to track who we are, where we go, and even who we associate with."

But CBP says it's no different from the data the agency already has in its database. 

"Anytime that someone enters or exits the country, that data is kept historically forever," Chastain said. "So, we have an enter/exit crossing -- that has been in with INS law forever."

The technology is already being used in airports around the country, in Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, and even in Atlanta. 

Last year, in fact, Atlanta's international terminal became the first in the country to go completely biometric. Travelers there use the facial recognition technology to check-in, drop off their bags and board the plane. 

Chastain hopes the technology will be used in Charlotte before the RNC in 2020. 

"It will save the passenger -- and not only that but people who are dealing with RNC who might be here -- time in getting processed in going through international travel," Chastain said.

It's an upgrade with mixed reviews, but one that could come to an airport near you. 

Officials say if it's implemented, travelers can opt-out. They would then go through the traditional customs procedure that is currently in practice at Charlotte-Douglas. 

The airport hasn't put out a timeline -- they only say they are actively looking into bringing the technology here. But Customs and Border Protection officers hope it's here within the next year. 


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