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UK phasing out iris-based biometrics at airports


The UK Home Office has begun to phase out its IRIS border control system. IRIS was the first biometrically enabled automated border control system installed in the United Kingdom.

The system allows registered passengers to enter the UK quickly through automated barriers at certain airports. IRIS unsurprising uses iris recognition systems to validate passengers and allow immediately entry into the UK.

The system required registration, but since the technology has a finite lifetime, the Home Office has halted registration. Existing registered passengers however will still be able to use the service. As of the end of September, IRIS will continue to be available for registered passengers only at Heathrow Airport at Terminals 3 and 5.

The UK Home Office is beginning to look at undertaking a process to replace the biometric passenger entry service for low-risk travelers from non- European Economic Area (EEA) countries.

The Home Office has indicated that it will probably not entertain using iris-based biometrics as an IRIS border control system replacement. The reason for this is because iris-based biometrics is not included in ePassports, which contain face and in some instances fingerprint data. Further, iris-based biometrics is not widely used by UK government departments or law enforcement agencies.

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