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Airport Biometric Facial Recognition Technology. It’s Here.

The movies always get there first, but reality catches up eventually. The latest entry in the life-copying-art department is biometric facial recognition technology, and it’s coming to an airport near you. Soon.

In fact, the futuristic technology — which allows passengers to move swiftly through an airport all the way from check-in to boarding without a ticket and with just one passport presentation — has been succeeding for some time in trials at airports around the world, including the United States, Aruba, Singapore, and more.

 As sophisticated as the technology is, the process for passengers is quite simple. In his article for Travel Weekly, Robert Silk explains that you get your picture taken, the airport security system checks it against the image stored in the chip of your e-passport or the airline’s passenger manifest, and with that you move on through the airport without the need further identity checks.

Worldwide Deployment in Three Years?

Sean Farrell, head of the biometrics team at travel technology company SITA, believes that the massive worldwide interest he’s seeing in this new model means that by 2020, major airports everywhere will have shifted to the biometrics system. That isn’t too long to wait for a day when waiting — and waiting and waiting — in lines at the airport are a thing of the happily forgotten past.

The Skeptics

Are there doubts and concerns? Inevitably. Harrison Rudolph, an associate at Georgetown Law’s Center on Privacy & Technology, thinks there is reason to be wary of turning over biometric data to the government. For starters, he says, the U.S. Customs & Border Protection agency, which gathers the data, hasn’t implemented any meaningful restrictions on how it will be shared. Additionally, it isn’t a flawless technology – it makes recognition mistakes, and tends to make them more with African-Americans, women, and children than it does with white men.

No Stopping It Now

So far, however, these concerns don’t appear to be having any effect on the momentum for transitioning worldwide airport security to biometric facial recognition technology. It seems like a done deal. Check out Silk’s in-depth reporting on the new face of airport security. Have you been through the process at one of the trial locations? We’d love to hear about your experience in the comments section below.


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