Travel News

Is There a Downside to TSA PreCheck?

Image Credit: TSA Instagram

Image Credit: TSA Instagram

Would you trade your fingerprints for access to a shorter line at the airport?

The TSA PreCheck program is now available in 100 airports across the country, and more than 18 million people have joined. Despite the rush to join, the program has been met with some criticism. Is PreCheck putting your personal privacy at risk?

Interested in applying for TSA PreCheck? You can fill out an application online, pay $85, and register your fingerprints.

This statement from the TSA explains their side of the application process.

“Under the TSA Pre✓TM Application Program, individuals may submit information to TSA, which in turn will use the information to conduct a security threat assessment of law enforcement, immigration, and intelligence databases, including a fingerprint-based criminal history records check conducted through the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). The results will be used by TSA to decide if an individual poses a low risk to transportation or national security.”

If the idea of federal organizations looking into your background makes you feel a bit nervous, you’re in good company.

The FBI does, after all, add the names of domestic terrorists to the Terrorist Screening Database (TSD), which feeds into the No Fly List and Selectee List.

As its name suggests, the No Fly List means that you cannot fly to or within the U.S., or even within its airspace. If you are on the Secondary Security Screening Selection, or Selectee List, you’ll see SSSS printed on your boarding pass.

By that time, you also will have noticed that you could not check in for your flight online, had to check in with a person, not a kiosk, and the TSA is very interested in you. Interested enough to give you a physical pat down and search through your luggage and carry-on items by hand.

If nothing is found, you will still be able to fly. But something you did raised a red flag, such as buying a one way ticket, paying for a flight in cash, booking at the last minute, or staying in a certain country for a long period of time.

A recent New York Times article has cast suspicion on the TSA’s methods of obtaining information on passengers, suggesting that the search starts long before you get to the airport.

Since the TSA is a branch of Homeland Security and will be working with the FBI, they have addressed some security concerns in a recent blog post.

“Prescreening of passengers is nothing new, and we are not using any new data to determine low risk passengers. Unfortunately some have confused these programs, so we wanted to take this opportunity to make clear what we are not doing:

  • We are not expanding the type of information we use – again we rely on the same security information passengers have been required to submit at time of booking for many years.
  • We are not using car registrations or employment information.
  • We are not using “private databases” – the info we rely on is the same info that passengers have provided for years when they book their flight.
  • TSA does not monitor a passenger’s length of stay in any location.”

Your Thoughts on About PreCheck?

Peter recently asked his Twitter followers if they think PreCheck is worth the $85 fee. Many said no. A big concern is that as the program grows, and the TSA is currently allowing randomly selected passengers into the PreCheck line (perhaps as a free sample?), the lines are getting longer which defeats the purpose.

See what they had to say and feel free to share your own thoughts and experiences below.

mgmertz: Not anymore. TSA has ruined it by inviting everyone. At LAX terminal 5 the PreCheck lines are longer than any other line.

DJNoah80:  yes but the airports need to keep up with the demand otherwise the lines could be longer than the regular line.

saab007: It won’t be after everyone pays for it.

BHaddock1: just tried it this week yes yes and yes!

vonKalweit: No. Let’s be honest: it’s the system that needs to be fixed. And this isn’t a solution.

Want to know more about PreCheck? Check out these reports:

By Stephanie Ervin for