UK dependence on biographic info causing delays at biometric airport eGates

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Some passengers traveling to and from the UK are in for extended waiting times, delays and frustration as valid passports are being rejected by airport biometric eGates, writes The Guardian. Travelers and activists say the border control system is “not fit for purpose,” and is leading to people being held up at the airport due to cases of mistaken identity at passport control, despite their biometric capabilities.

Although they are innocent, travelers with names similar to criminals in the Home Office databases will continue to be stopped and rejected entrance to the country until the actual criminals are apprehended. Not even a passport change would help, as the name would still appear in the system, sources say.

Acuity Market Intelligence Principal Maxine Most took to Twitter and wrote “UK #egates continually reject travelers with name matches to identified suspects. Silly me, I thought the whole point of #biometrics at the #border was that you didn’t rely on #biographic #PII.”

The UK has a total of 264 ePassport gates at 15 airports and ports of entry. According to the Home Office, they have a number of methods to identify people at the border, not just names.

“Border Force’s priority is to maintain security on the border at all times and it is inaccurate to claim that checks are based on name alone,” said a Home Office spokeswoman. “All those arriving in the UK are examined and checked against Home Office databases using biographical and security information.

“Our ePassport gates work by using facial recognition technology, as well as biographical and security checks. There are a number of technical and security reasons why a passport may fail to be accepted at automated border controls,” she added.

Edin Omanovic, Surveillance Programme Lead at Privacy International accused the Home Office of “mismanagement and waste of taxpayers’ money” and demanded honesty with travelers looking for answers.

A few months ago, Privacy International called for new UN guidelines on biometrics to protect human rights in relation to biometrics-based identification systems adoption.

Biometric eGates have grown in popularity with an increased number of countries deploying them for enhanced border control. Roll outs have included Liszt Ferenc International Airport and Debrecen International Airport in Hungary, Kotoka International Airport in Ghana, Vienna International Airport and Ninoy Aquino International Airport in the Philippines, among others.

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