Security sits down with Lisa Sullivan, Senior Vice President of Travel and Transport at IDEMIA, to discuss how to preserve personally identifiable information (PII) while screening passengers.

SecurityWhat is your background and current role? What are some of your responsibilities? 

Sullivan: As Senior Vice President of Travel and Transport at IDEMIA, I put to work the experience I bring across travel and transportation, both highly-regulated industries, and the Federal government, while following my passion for secure and efficient travel. During my time working at Harris, followed by my experience with Palantir and now with IDEMIA, I realized that what I love about the biometrics space is data analysis and problem-solving. At IDEMIA, the problem solving is done in collaboration with our government partners to drive innovation and move solutions forward. I enjoy figuring out, whether it’s making sure passengers are screened based on their level of risk or ensuring customers control their personal information with strong privacy and cybersecurity protections, whatever the use case I’m trying to solve, how should biometrics be an element of a solution that enhances security and drives operational efficiencies?


SecurityChecking people's identities with efficiency is key in fast-moving environments. What are some practical practices that can effectively help identify passengers quickly and securely?

Sullivan: If you think about moving quickly and securely, high quality is necessary, and it starts with best-in-class technology. TSA is investing in mobile driver’s license (mDL) readers at checkpoints, which will streamline processes, generate real efficiencies and savings while significantly enhancing aviation security. Security should never be compromised for efficiency. Speed and operational efficiency are essential, but whenever you work with TSA, the primary concern is enhancing security effectiveness. In a recent demo of new tech rolling out, one of the participants pulled a driver’s license from 30 years ago, and the readers were able to capture and verify identity remarkably quickly, in mere seconds. Another essential element is helping travelers manage change as new technologies are rolled out and deployed to TSA checkpoints. Making sure passengers are aware of the new processes to ensure speed and efficiency. People are out of practice when it comes to travel due to the pandemic, so educational awareness is a critical component here, ensuring TSA officers are familiar with the new technologies and processes but also making sure passengers understand what’s expected of them and how they can be prepared to move through the screening process with speed and efficiency.   


SecurityHow can automated self-service programs based on biometrics technology and identity management help?  

Sullivan: We are seeing an exciting thing happen through our work with TSA and Customs and Border Protection. We have been involved in Global Entry trials for automatic gates and enhancing the consumer experience at the gate. There is a great opportunity to introduce automation that will redefine job roles so that officers spend less time inspecting and processing IDs and rote paperwork and can apply more focus towards reviewing anomalies and high-risk edge cases. Automation can be a real game-changer for entry and exit processes by optimizing safety, security, and speed so customers can enjoy a more streamlined and comfortable journey through our international airports. 

The travel industry has lost so many workers since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. Self-service options will enable the industry to recover and redefine jobs and business processes and free employees to focus on work of higher value. Not every process requires a human, and with advancing technology, now is the perfect time to use tested, secure automation to tackle mundane tasks. Presently, airline check-in and gate staff manage multiple processes and tasks. If mundane tasks can be handled through automation, airline staff could be freed up to solve travelers’ problems and improve customer service. The industry is seeing an exciting thing happen: like with TSA and CBP’s Global Entry trials, the new automatic gates when a consumer approaches is a great way to ease staffing challenges, allow officers to focus on high-risk cases, and protect the health and safety of officers by reducing physical contact. 


SecurityA concern with biometrics is that they involve some loss of privacy because personally identifiable information (PII) is stored and used for authentication. How can this technology be used without compromising user privacy and security, as well as the protection of PII?  

Sullivan: Privacy and civil liberties are of the utmost importance. We approach this as a system of record check. Ensuring the data comes from official government records – DMV or enrollees of Trusted Traveler Programs like TSA PreCheck or CBP’s Global Entry. It is critical we use governmental systems of record, and if third-party elements are available, that they only be used with the consent of the consumer. It is of the utmost importance that consumers control their identity and biometric information, including when, where and with whom they use it. The consumer should always be in control, and vendors should put identity security in their hands.