TSA May Soon Require Passengers Without ID To Answer Challenge Questions On A Mobile App

The TSA has published a formal request for information (.pdf) laying out a plan to outsource vetting of passengers who do not have ID when they present themselves at a security checkpoint.

In normal times about 600 passengers per day fly without any ID. Currently the government asks challenge questions to verify their identity through the Identity Verification Call Center.

They don’t think this scales, and when the federal government finally does enforce REAL ID requirements there could be a large number of people who do not have ID considered acceptable to TSA, but they need a process to still allow those people to fly. (The current projection is to begin enforcing REAL ID October 1, 2021.)

Papers, Please points out that this is a public admission,

  • That people fly without ID all the time
  • That will continue to be permitted even after REAL ID goes into effect at TSA checkpoints

Under the system the TSA is contemplating, a private contractor would develop an app to ask the traveler challenge questions based on both government and commercial data about the person. It would then produce a pass/fail to be shown at the TSA checkpoint.

Under this system if you don’t have a fully-charged smartphone with you at the airport, you wouldn’t be able to fly. Of course you might have lost or had your phone stolen at the same time as your wallet with ID inside.

Papers Please points out that TSA’s specifications include that the app has to ascertain that the SIM card hasn’t been swapped and isn’t being spoofed, and this capability may limit the number of phone operating systems that are acceptable as well (Will there be more than an Android and iPhone app?) and also that paying a third party contractor to collect information from travelers that it doesn’t itself receive serves as an end-run around the Administrative Procedures Act which imposes standards for government data collection as well as the Privacy Act.

Effectively then a fly/no fly decision for someone without an ID would be made by a contractor’s algorithm.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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Comments

  1. >>>Under this system if you don’t have a fully-charged smartphone with you at the airport, you wouldn’t be able to fly. Of course you might have lost or had your phone stolen at the same time as your wallet with ID inside.<<<

    This is what happened to my mother in Florida. She had no problem flying home. What does TSA intend to do with these people? Strand them? Give out free iphones at taxpayer expense? OMG the TSA sucks.

  2. My experience with these outsourced verifications is spotty. When I got vetted for UPS’s My Choice (tracking) system, it asked a question that ended up being the birthday of the woman who had bought my previous house, ten years earlier. I didn’t pass the first time and had to wait 3 days to retry. And I’ve had multiple questions about the street my ex-mother-in-law lived on, also over ten years ago.

  3. If it is anything like credit card questions then 80% of the answers will be None if the Above.

    Monty Brewster for the win.

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