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Airport face biometrics expansion in US, India accelerating

Dignari and Idemia among vendors positioned to benefit
Airport face biometrics expansion in US, India accelerating

The U.S. Transportation Security Administration plans to expand facial recognition for passenger processing to 430 airports around the country within “several years,” a representative of the agency told Fast Company. The expansion is part of a trend towards the use of face biometrics instead of manual facial comparisons by government authorities, in a boon for vendors like Dignari and Idemia.

A pilot at 25 airports which is currently underway has so far shown a 97 percent rate of accuracy across all demographics, through the TSA does not intend to release the final results when the two-year pilot is complete.

There are actually two concurrent pilots, TSA Press Secretary Robert Langston told the publication, including one testing 1:N (one-to-many) facial recognition at a pair of airports. The program compares photos of travelers to images in a government database, and is limited to Trusted Traveler participants.

“Biometric data is overwritten as soon as the next passenger steps up to the queue,” Langston says. “And then, when the technology is turned off at the end of the day, whatever storage system in there dumps completely. There is no saved image.”

Previously, however, some passengers’ face biometrics were sent in encrypted form to DHS researchers to help evaluate the effectiveness of the algorithms.

Jeramie Scott of the Electronic Privacy Information Center notes that 97 percent accuracy would leave 60,000 people per day to be processed in the usual way. He also said that no matter how accurate, the agency’s ability to change how the program works at any time means it should not implement facial recognition.

The article also notes that the Algorithmic Justice League reports 60 out of 67 travelers responding to a request for feedback to the AJL on the program said they saw no signs informing them of the use of facial recognition. Only 2 of 67 said they were asked to consent to the process. Visitors to the AJL website are greeted with a pop-up warning them, “Travelers Beware,” and inviting them to submit a scorecard, suggesting that the sample is not likely representative of travelers as a whole.

Dignari has contracts with the TSA to support the implementation of biometrics, including one signed earlier this year and valued at $23.5 million.

The Idemia family of businesses also holds major contracts to deploy biometrics at U.S. airports, with Idemia I&S the supplier of the TSA’s CAT2 machines.

The trend is hardly confined to the U.S., however, and Idemia also won a contract with Indian airport operator GMR Group to implement face biometrics under the Digi Yatra program.

Users of Digi Yatra biometric ID checks reach 1.74 million

Meanwhile in India, the number of people who have used the Digi Yatra mobile application for ID verification with biometrics across some of the country’s airport reached 1.74 million as of June 20, according to a news release from the Ministry of Aviation.

Digi Yatra is an airport boarding system which uses face biometrics for passenger verification. It was launched in December last year with three airports, but the facility is now available in seven.

With files from Ayang Macdonald

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