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Delta: Chinese Government Collects Biometric Info From Foreign Travelers

Delta Airlines passengers

Delta Airlines is giving the personal information of its passengers flying in and out of China to the country’s communist government, according to the airliner’s privacy policy.


The country’s communist government collects the highly personal information of passengers flying in and out of China, according to Delta Air Lines’ privacy policy.

Updated just last month, the privacy agreement designates an entire section to the communist nation, wherein Delta describes the “specific practices related to the use, storage, and disclosure of your personal information in China.”

“Your personal data will be collected and processed in accordance with Cybersecurity Law of China that became effective in June 2017 … and any other laws and regulations of China that govern this area,” the policy reads. “Any processing of personal data that we perform is in accordance with the provisions of the privacy laws in China, and this data may only be used for the limited purposes discussed in this section. ”

The agreement also details certain passenger information required by government authorities, including birthday, sex, “postal address, address while staying in the United States, and email address,” and “biometric information (such as finger, face, voice, or iris).”

While Delta claims to have a “legitimate business interest in complying with legal and regulatory requirements applicable in China,” cooperating with China’s communist regime presents serious national security concerns for the United States. According to J. Michael Waller, a senior analyst for strategy at the Center for Security Policy, China “has been building a global database of individuals’ biometrics, including their DNA, for years.”

“Oftentimes we have no choice in the matter. There is no legitimate reason for a country to take the biometrics of ordinary travelers except to build databases,” he told The Federalist. “Advocates can say that it’s for crime-fighting or ‘security’ — whatever that means anymore, the term has become so meaningless — but really it’s a means of control. We have to assume that China is building these databases for intelligence, criminal, and repressive purposes, and for purposes yet unknown.”

“It’s good that Delta fesses up to this in its privacy policy, though it’s a scandal that it’s buried in fine print,” Waller said.

It’s the Chinese government that collects this information, not Delta, responded Delta spokeswoman Kate Modolo: “Delta has no biometric program in China and does not collect customer biometric information in China. The only information Delta shares with the Chinese government is the information required of all airlines by law – specifically manifest information.”

Modolo said Delta put the information in its privacy policy to inform customers of what to expect when visiting China.

Delta also partners with the U.S. government in another biometric data collection program. Back in 2019, Delta announced it would be expanding its use of optional facial recognition technology for passengers boarding domestic and international flights through a new partnership with U.S. Customs and Border Protection. In Atlanta and soon Detroit, customers can have their faces scanned and compared to U.S. government databases as a form of identity verification instead of a two-second-longer passport scan.

“The expansion of facial recognition at boarding enables more customers to take advantage of this seamless, time-saving process — an important step as we implement facial recognition in our hubs across the country and define the experience for the industry,” said Delta’s COO Gil West in a press release. “At Delta, we have the best people in aviation, and technology like this frees them up to spend more time helping our customers.”

Additionally, the press release revealed that “less than two percent of customers opt out of this process and CBP has a match rate of more than 97 percent.”

This article has been significantly corrected since its publication to reflect that China, not Delta, collects this information, and postpublication statements from Delta were added.