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SIA and IBIA say facial recognition for airline passengers is safe, necessary

Industry org opposes ban on face biometrics for air travel based on ‘spurious claims’
SIA and IBIA say facial recognition for airline passengers is safe, necessary

The Security Industry Association (SIA) and the International Biometrics + Identity Association (IBIA) are pushing congress not to approve language in the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Reauthorization measure that would restrict the U.S. Transportation Security Administration’s ability to use facial recognition. A release from the SIA says the proposed ban is “an extraneous provision” that would “force the TSA to abandon its highly successful use of facial biometrics to verify required traveler documents at security checkpoints.”

The SIA minces no words in its assessment of the proposed amendment, which it says is “based on ill-informed and spurious claims regarding TSA’s current use of biometric technology — claims that are completely and demonstrably false.” SIA says “there is zero evidence for claims it is or could be used for mass surveillance” and insists no biometric information is retained or shared in the aftermath of standard automated biometric passenger identity verification processes.

In their letter to congress, SIA CEO Don Erickson and IBIA Managing Director Robert Tappan  point out that face biometrics are currently in use for traveler verification at TSA security screening checkpoints in more than 80 airports across the country. “The technology provides enhanced security, accuracy and convenience for travelers, without impacting existing privacy rights or changing privacy expectations,” they say. “This 11th-hour measure will compromise programs that facilitate the safety and enhance the travel experience of travelers across the nation.”

The safety of automated biometric passenger gates is one question. Their functional reliability is another story, as demonstrated by a technical meltdown at airports across the UK last week that caused chaos for travelers at border checkpoints. Edinburgh Airport, Birmingham Airport, Manchester Airport, Heathrow Airport, London Gatwick, London Luton and Stansted Airport all faced long lineups when Border Force’s facial recognition-based automated electronic passport gates failed.

Birmingham Live reports on a statement from the Home Office saying the technical issue that caused the system collapse was quickly identified and has now been resolved. “We have comprehensively reviewed the causes and will ensure this issue does not occur again,” says the statement. The 1:1 face matching eGates are once again functioning at all airports.

Facial recognition from NEC XON nabs illegal syndicate at border crossing

A release from NEC XON says the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) successfully deployed the biometrics firm’s NeoFace Watch facial recognition system to identify and apprehend a Chinese syndicate attempting to enter the country with fake travel documents. NeoFace Watch searches against a database of 12 million faces in less than three seconds, with 99.8 percent accuracy. NEC XON Business Lead for Surveillance and Analytics Jan Erasmus says the apprehension “exemplifies the groundbreaking capabilities of facial recognition technology in combating transnational crime.”

More facial recognition deployments at airports in Europe, Japan, Nigeria

Business Traveller reports that Lufthansa is now offering contactless entry via decentralized facial recognition at select airports in the EU. Star Alliance’s face biometrics system, powered by technology from SITA and NEC, allows travelers who create a biometric profile through an app to clear security and boarding with a face scan. It is limited to travelers 18 years or older.

Narita International Airport will deploy technology from RTX subsidiary Collins Aerospace for automated check-in and streamlined passenger processing. A release says the move is “designed to introduce a safer, contactless experience that reduces passenger wait times and congestion throughout the airport.”

Airports in Nigeria are getting new electronic passport gates, thanks to the federal government. The Guardian reports that Murtala Muhammed International Airport (MMIA) in Lagos will install 21 electronic gates, while three other airports will each put in four.

Finally, KazTag reports that the government of Kazakhstan is planning to implement passenger biometrics at airports across the country.

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