Facial biometrics deployed to more airports as surveys indicate growing support

Facial biometrics deployed to more airports as surveys indicate growing support

Public acceptance of biometric facial recognition technology seems to be increasing, and aviation stakeholders are forging ahead with public deployments.

A survey from travel site Reservations.com shows just over 42 percent of U.S. adults approve of the use of facial recognition, half of them strongly so, while only 32.5 percent do not support the technology’s use, NextGov reports. Almost 25 percent say they do not agree or disagree with biometrics use in airports.

Reservations.com representative Joseph Robinson told NextGov that he is surprised that the most common response was positive, citing a Brookings survey from last October in which only 31 percent reported a favorable view of facial recognition in airports. A survey by the Center for Data Innovation in December likewise found that 54 percent are in favor of limiting the technology. Robinson also says he is surprised by the number of undecided Americans.

“Across all three surveys, the undecided audience remained the same, at around 25% of those polled,” Robison said. “But this change in sentiment may point to growing acceptance of facial recognition technology as part of the modern airport experience.”

Stakeholders at the FTE Biometrics Symposium at the recent FTE EMEA event in Istanbul discussed the challenges and possibilities associated with single-token biometric systems for air travel, according to an announcement from industry group APEX (the Airline Passenger Experience Association). APEX/IFSA CEO Joe Leader told an event audience that the APEX/IFSA Board of Governors voted unanimously in late 2018 to prioritize biometrics this year to improve air travel efficiency.

Stakeholders complained, however, that biometrically identified travelers still find themselves repeating processes with a human security officer on entering North America. Passenger education is still a barrier to smooth airport experiences in developing countries, attendees were told.

The U.S. Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has denied that it plans to make biometric identity verification mandatory for air travelers in the country, according to CNN. Acting Deputy Administrator Patricia Cogswell told the broadcaster that while TSA is continuing testing, and intends to increase implementation, it also recognizes risks associated with the collection and use of personal information.

The assurances come as TSA, Customs and Border Protection (CBP), and the Secret Service prepare to appear before a House Homeland Security Meeting on July 10, Bloomberg reports, at which the agencies’ representatives are expected to be grilled on the necessity of using facial biometrics after images of roughly 100,000 people were breached from a CB system last month.

The officials are also expected to face questions about the legal mandate for the use of biometrics in the Biometric Entry/Exit program. Some House Democrats have urged CBP to pause its program while a range of concerns are addressed.

Facial recognition deployed to airports around the world

Beijing Daxing International Airport will have facial biometrics and related intelligent technologies in place by September 30, according to a statement from an official with the Civil Aviation Administration of China, reported by Chinanews.com. The airport will also provide customers with personalized information using the technology, and implement RFID technology for baggage tracking with an app.

Deputy Director of the Agency’s Airports Division Zhang Rui says roughly 86 percent of check-ins will be automatic, and 76 percent of baggage will be checked through self-service kiosks.
Facial recognition is expected to soon support paperless boarding for many flights in China.

“Ultimately, facial recognition could serve as the only means of identification and be applied to the entire journey after the initial validation of a passenger’s identity,” Liang Jia, deputy manager of ancillary services at the e-commerce division of China Southern Airlines, told China Daily.

China Southern is planning to roll out biometric technology for security check and boarding processes, and Shenzhen International Airport is planning to make more efficient screening methods available for people with good safety credit records. Early testing indicates processes utilizing advanced technology decrease passenger processing time by more than 60 percent.

Facial recognition cameras have been installed at Gibraltar Airport to help identify criminals and illegal immigrants, Spain’s Olive Press reports. Similar systems are already in place at other border crossings in Gibraltar.

“The Government is pleased to have invested not only in additional human resources, but also in the latest available technology in passport scanners, CCTV and facial recognition cameras,” Chief Minister Fabian Picardo said.

UK police currently hold roughly 20 million facial images.

Delta Airlines CEO Ed Bastain says the company will roll out biometric boarding in partnership with CBP at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL), Minneapolis−Saint Paul International Airport (MSP) and expand its deployment at Salt Lake City International Airport (SLC) to 49 new gates and all international flights. The latter deployment includes a gate for travelers departing to Atlanta, to complete a curb-to-gate traveler journey, according to the company announcement.

The biometric boarding process used by Delta cuts boarding times by roughly 2 seconds per passenger, or 9 minutes for a widebody aircraft, according to the company’s initial data.

“We are already seeing improvements in satisfaction scores from customers moving through the airport in Atlanta.

The expansion of facial recognition at boarding enables more customers to take advantage of this seamless, time-saving process – an important step as we implement facial recognition in our hubs across the country and define the experience for the industry,” says Delta COO Gil West. “At Delta, we have the best people in aviation, and technology like this frees them up to spend more time helping our customers.”

Third-party customer insight research for Delta indicates that 93 percent of travelers have no issue with using facial biometrics for boarding, 72 percent prefer to do so, and 70 percent found the curb-to-gate biometric experience for international travelers appealing after using an early deployment.

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