TSA should take notice of bartender app that checks ID

TSA should take notice of bartender app that checks ID

SEATTLE -- Long lines at airport security are never a welcome sign to an anxious flyer, but passengers have been conditioned to be patient in the name of safety. 

Now, a recently released $2 smartphone app could offer up a better ID check than the TSA now has in place. The TSA has spent millions of dollars on similar technology with nothing to show.

Some flyers, like Liz Tate of Walla Walla, loath what the Transportation Security Administration puts passengers through.

"I think they are mostly wasting our time and money," Tate said.

A TSA agent must review a passenger's government issued ID and check the name on the boarding pass against it prior to entering electronic scanning area.

It happens so fast that passengers sometimes wonder if they are really checking the ID at all.

"I guess they are making sure you name matches your boarding pass and confirming, like, who you are, maybe?" said passenger Casey Stengal, who is not really sure why the check is necessary.

The frequent flyer has never seen anyone pull away because the ID appeared to be a fake.

"Our document checkers are trained to identify fraudulent documents, discern behavioral cues and in basic interviewing techniques," TSA Press Secretary Ron Feinstein said in an email. "All security officers complete 190 hours of basic training and ongoing training on a monthly basis."

But can anyone be expected to detect a fake ID with all the government-issued identifications out there, and not just from the United States?  Assistant TSA Administrator Kelley Hoggan told a congressional committee in June of 2012 that there were 2740 different variations of IDs.

Maybe the TSA should take notice of Barzapp, an app being marketed to bartenders, bouncers and anyone who could lose their job if they don't spot a fake ID.

The $1.99 app for iPhone and Android scans the barcode on the back of a driver's license and decodes the information. Government issue IDs require the information on the front of a driver's license to be encoded into a bar code on the back.

Barzapp decodes the barcode for the user to see.  If it matches what's on the front of the license, then the ID most likely is real.  If it doesn't, most likely the license is a fake.

That could make Trista Renton's job much easier.

"The liquor board will come, they will send someone in with maybe a fake, or someone under age just to see if I would serve them," Renton said. "I could lose my job like that".

Renton is a bartender at the J&M Cafe in Seattle's Pioneer square, and after she tested the app on our behalf, she said it would be a big help in her hectic job.

"This would definitely make my job easier and faster and it could save my job," she said.

KOMO News tested the app with a stack of known fake driver's licenses confiscated by Judy Lewis, an enforcement officer with the Washington State Liquor Control Board.

Of the two dozen licenses from a variety of states, only one registered potentially as a legitimate license.  Barzapp could not decode the information on all the others.

"Nothing's foolproof," Lewis said, 'but this would be a big help to bartenders who have not been trained to spoke a fake license".

Lewis said the fakes, especially those coming out of China, are near perfect that could fool law enforcement.

Barzapp was developed by Intellicheck Mobilisa, a Port Townsend Washington company pioneering ID security on many levels including driver's licenses. The company's technology helped catch the Boston Marathon bomber after he used his ID on one of the company's point of sale barcode readers to buy fireworks.

The company declined to speak about Barzapp because it wants TSA to use their technology.  They are not alone.

Since 2007, TSA has been working on developing a Credential Authentication Technology to use at airport checkpoints. But after spending tens of millions of dollars and four rounds of soliciting vendors and testing possible equipment, the TSA still doesn't have an electronic ID verification system in place.

"The TSA is still testing this type of technology," Feinstein said.

The TSA has not identified a technology it would like to use with no deadline for it to be in service.

In the meantime, TSA agents will continue to use the same methods it used for years; eye-balling identifications and checking embedded holograms against a black light which Lewis says a good fake could pass. And agents must do so in a matter of seconds because no one wants to wait at airport security.

Bartenders on the other hand have a $2 app. It's not perfect, but at the very least suggests the ID is a fake.  Isn't that what pre-emptive security is all about?

"It doesn't cost enough, it has to cost allot for them to use it I think," Tate said.