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Airport biometrics gains for SITA, Idemia but hit setback in Pakistan

Airport biometrics gains for SITA, Idemia but hit setback in Pakistan

Airports in South Africa and Abu Dhabi are advancing plans for biometrics in airports in collaboration with Idemia and SITA, respectively, but Karachi, Pakistan’s airport facial recognition system has been shut down.

At the same time, airport deals have faced criticism in Guyana for concerns around the erosion of sovereignty, and a lawsuit in the U.S. over the privacy of citizens.

Karachi Airport facial recognition system inactive due to ‘lack of interest’

The facial recognition system that was first activated just a few months ago at Karachi’s Jinnah International Airport is no longer operational, due to authorities’ “lack of interest” in maintaining the system, according to Pakistan Today.

During its run, the system was able to catch several individuals accused of crimes who were trying to escape to foreign countries. In later phases, an implementation of the system was planned for domestic departures and at other international airports across Pakistan.

In March, the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) was given access to facial recognition cameras installed at Karachi’s Jinnah International Airport through a control room built by aviation authorities.

With the help of Japan, FRT enhanced surveillance cameras were also installed at Karachi, Lahore, Islamabad, and Multan airports. They could make 60 percent of blurred images recognizable. Faulty cameras would cost $3,000 to replace within three years of being activated.

Abu Dhabi airport expand SITA biometrics on eve of Intersec 2024

On January 16-18, 2024, the Dubai World Trade Centre will host Intersec 2024 to discuss emerging security challenges and threats to the aviation industry in the Middle East region, according to Times Aerospace.

Airports in the region are already implementing and expanding systems to increase security and convenience. Abu Dhabi International Airport, for instance, has introduced biometrics at its new Terminal A in collaboration with SITA. Next50 began installing biometric systems for customer bag drops, immigration checks and flight boarding from Idemia and SITA at the airport late last year.

Passengers can now go from airport entry to their gate in under 12 minutes, according to an announcement from the airport authority. The baggage drop-off kiosks take 30 seconds to complete, the immigration procedure takes 10 seconds, and flight boarding takes three seconds.

An International Air Transport Association (IATA) survey revealed that 75 percent of passengers would use biometrics over passports and boarding passes, and over one third have already used biometrics in travel.

“The success of regional aviation security can be attributed to the fact that some of the major airports in the Middle East region,” such as the Abu Dhabi Airport, “have invested heavily in advanced technologies and infrastructure,” which are “now showing tangible results,” said Aaron Le Boutillier, ASIS International Regional VP and Le Boutillier Group CEO, who will speak at Intersec 2024.

Emirates Airlines introduced a biometric fast-track system for passengers back in November 2022. Riyadh Airports Company ran trials for facial recognition technology systems in February 2023.

Idemia supplies 3 South African airports

Idemia announced it will supply its biometric passenger flow facilitation system, ID2Travel, in South Africa’s three main international airports. The four year project began in October 2023 and will have three phases. As early as 2026, nine airports – three international and six domestic – will have the end-to-end system fully installed.

The deal was made possible as a result of the success of the ABIS program carried out by Idemia in collaboration with the Department of Home Affairs, according to a company announcement.

Papua New Guinea, Guyana each integrating biometrics

Papua New Guinea Prime Minister James Marape has signed a deal with Australia to help implement biometrics in airports, according to Reuters. Papua New Guinea will also hire Australian police officers for leadership positions in its national police force as part of the security deal.

The agreement is a response to a surge in violent crime in the nation and will have Australian officers wear PNG police uniforms and follow the laws of the country.

The agreement was delayed after some PNG politicians opposed a defense deal with the U.S. back in May, arguing that it infringes on PNGs sovereignty by giving other countries control over international travel ports. That deal could also have put the country in the middle of competition between the U.S. and China, they said.

Meanwhile, Guyana Public Works Minister Deodat Indar this week announced that electronic gates that integrate with the nation’s digital ID system will be implemented at the Cheddi Jagan International Airport for arriving passengers in the name of aviation safety, according to Demerara Waves.

Passengers only need to register once before using face authentication to automatically open the gate.

This comes after the government recently signed a $35.4 million deal with Veridos, a German digital ID company, to implement their digital identity system. The report notes that SITA also won an airport automation contract in the country in 2010.

US passengers sue TAP Air

At the same time, U.S. airline passengers filed a class action lawsuit against TAP Air Portugal for violations of the Illinois Biometric Information Privacy Act (BIPA), according to Cook County Record. Complainants say that the company violated BIPA by scanning faces of passengers during boarding without notice at O’Hare International Airport.

Passengers allege they went through a mandatory boarding process, in which TAP collected and stored their facial geometry. BIPA requires that companies must inform visitors of the purpose for biometrics being collected, as well as how long it will be stored, along with a written notice from the visitor. TAP allegedly did none of these things.

The plaintiffs are seeking damages of $1,000-$5,000 for each violation for themselves and all others in the lawsuit, along with legal costs. They are also seeking an injunction for TAP to comply with BIPA.

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