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Airport face recognition to replace passports

February 26, 2018 Headline News No Comments Email Email

Digital face-recognition technology will soon be used at Australian airports instead of passports, Minister for Immigration and Border Protection, Peter Dutton has confirmed.

A trial of biometric testing is underway at Canberra Airport, and a similar trial will begin at Sydney Airport from May.

“Your face will be your passport and boarding pass,” Sydney Airport’s new chief executive, Geoff Culbert, told the Sydney Morning Herald.

“There will be no fumbling for passports.”

Meanwhile, Dutton, who is also Australia’s Home Affairs Minister, told the National Press Club in Canberra that data analytics and biometrics enabled authorities to photograph air passengers as they strolled through the airport and identify them by facial recognition software.

This would eliminate, in the next year or two, the process of having to present a passport to an immigration officer or swipe a passport in a machine.

Dutton said the technology was already being trialled at Canberra Airport, where it had achieved a 90% success rate, the Australian Financial Review reported.

Commercial applications of facial recognition technology were demonstrated at the AIME conference in Melbourne last week.

Don’t expect passports to disappear anytime soon, however. Countries will continue to demand them, probably for many years to come.

Australian passport. Around for a while yet


The acknowledged leader in digital recognition technology and mass surveillance is China, which has deployed about 170 million CCTV cameras on its streets, the highest number in the world. An estimated 400 million new cameras will be installed in the next three years, most fitted with artificial intelligence including biometric facial recognition.

A couple of months ago, BBC reporter John Sudworth put China’s system to the test in the city of Guiyang, capital of Guizhou province in the country’s southwest. Guiyang has a population of about 3.5 million and the police there have compiled a vast digital catalogue containing the image of every resident.

To test the system, Sudworth had himself photographed and flagged as a suspect in a simulated exercise. The authorities in Guiyang hunted him down and found him in a matter of minutes. The exercise can be watched on the BBC site here.

China’s biometric surveillance has been linked to all sorts of other things, even credit ratings, as Dan Epstein reports from Beijing below.

Written by Peter Needham

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