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Hong Kong airports to introduce facial recognition at departure gates


The Hong Kong government announced last week that it will introduce a facial biometrics-enabled electronic channel service at airport departure gates, according to a report by Today.

Foreign visitors will be prompted to place their e-passport on the reader before entering the e-channel. They will then be required to look into a camera while the system compares the newly captured image with the photo stored in the chip of their e-passport.

The visitor’s identity is successfully verified when the two images match and subsequently opens the gate.

Hong Kong’s immigration department says the new e-channels will benefit about 4 million foreign visitors, aged 11 or older, who have a electronic passports. They will be able to use the system without undergoing advanced registration.

The department said the new measure will likely reduce the average processing time from 50 seconds per individual to 20 seconds.

Erick Tsang Kwok-wai, director of immigration, pointed out that the new travel service would only be offered at the departures gate since the procedures are easier than for arrivals.

“Officers are required to check the travel visa and travel purpose of the visitor upon arrival and question him or her if necessary,” Tsang said. “But [when he or she departs] we only need to verify the identity of the visitor, the passport’s authenticity and if the visitor is wanted or has overstayed. The procedures are less complicated.”

Approximately 30 percent of visitors are expected to be able to use the automated immigration clearance system in the first phase.

This could increase to 90 percent in 2020 as the majority of countries are expected to have adopted e-passports by then, Tsang said.

The authority installed 595 multi-purpose e-channels at the end of 2016 at all control points which could be used by eligible Hong Kong residents or visitors.

The service will initially be rolled out at Hong Kong International Airport as early as April, and extended to other locations in the future,Tsang said.

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