Zurich airport trialing face recognition system at immigration checks

Zurich airport in Switzerland has implemented automated biometric passport control systems in an effort to accommodate increased capacity demands as well as decrease long queues at immigration checks, according to a report by Swissinfo.Ch.

The face recognition system is the foundation of the recent CHF8 million (US$8.2 million) expansion and revamp at the airport.

Meanwhile, Geneva airport is also looking to install biometrics technology of its own via the Automated Border Control (ABC) system.

Zurich’s facial recognition system is available as an optional service for passengers over the age of 18, compatible with all biometric passports from either Switzerland or countries that are part of the European Union (EU) or European Economic Area (EEA).

Passengers matching this description who are arriving from outside the Schengen zone are given the option of using the face scanners instead of showing their passports to immigration control officers.

The whole process takes between 10 to 20 seconds for each passenger, which should help to alleviate long wait times at an airport that draws some 40,000 passengers each day.

Zurich cantonal police, which will operate the new system, recently addressed concerns regarding data protection.

“Firstly, this is a voluntary process,” said Ueli Zoelly, head of policing at Zurich airport. “None of the data is saved, it is all deleted. We have checked carefully to make sure that that the system complies with Swiss data protection laws.”

The Swiss data protection commissioner’s office confirmed the biometric passport control system is grounded in Swiss legislation, but failed to comment directly about the system.

The test trial will last for several months before police decide in 2018 whether to implement it on a permanent basis and if it needs to add more scanners to complement the initial eight that have been installed.

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