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Australian airports may trial iPhones to verify identity of overseas travelers


Australia’s Department of Immigration and Border Protection has recommended outfitting Border Force officers at the country’s eight international airports with iPhones and attachable biometric devices to verify the identity of overseas travellers of interest in near real-time, according to a report by IT News.

The department has tested the portable biometric scanners at Brisbane international airport with the intention of replacing the bulky scanners which officers have complained are inconvenient to carry.

The Enhanced Biometrics at the Border (EBatB) technology comprises of an iPhone and a device that plugs into the bottom of the smartphone to enable the officer to log on.

The device allows roaming frontline officers to identify suspicious non-citizen travelling from other countries that have been flagged for an identity check by airport security at other international airports.

Using the device, officers are able to “very quickly take a minimum of four fingerprints [from a referred non-citizen], and in less than 60 seconds [run] those fingerprints… against departmental holdings”, said the department’s identity and biometrics division head Joe Franzi.

“All the immigration passport information, various name changes, you name it, everything we hold on that person, including their face, comes up on screen for the officer,” Franzi said.

The process would typically take several hours to complete, as well as involve officers consulting multiple systems and making several phone calls.

For nearly a decade, the department has been collecting biometric information from the visa applicants of more than 40 countries across Europe, Africa, the Middle East and Asia.

The department was considering expanding the biometric data at its disposal by “being able to connect up and interrogate law enforcement data holdings”, Franzi said.

The devices would be funded by the federal government’s $99.2 million budget to provide immigration risk system to detect risky visa applicants before they enter the country.

The new capability will link up with the national facial biometrics system being developed by the Attorney-General’s Department, which was recently provided with access to drivers’ licence images by state and territory governments.

Earlier this year it was revealed that the Australian Passport Office is developing in-house a new facial recognition system to keep pace with the country’s two government biometrics initiatives.

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