Customs and Border Protection (CBP) is moving quickly towards a biometric-exit process at US airports that utilises facial recognition, and the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) may also start using facial images.
In 2017, several US airlines supported the CBP Biometric Exit pilot programme, testing if facial recognition could identify outbound travellers successfully during the boarding process. In December, for example, British Airways began trialling contactless self-service biometric boarding gates for departures from the Tom Bradley International Terminal in Los Angeles International Airport.
Technology supplier Vision-Box said its biometric solution enables CBP to match a live high-quality facial image against a digital image captured during the immigration process. Passengers can then board without presenting a travel document or boarding pass.
Additional Biometric Exit trials will take place during 2018. John Wagner, deputy executive assistant commissioner for the CBP Office of Field Operations, said his agency hopes to have Biometric Exit fully deployed “in the next three to four years”. He also believes facial recognition can be used when foreigners enter the United States, and by the TSA, despite privacy concerns over widespread use of facial recognition systems in airports.
“We feel we can facilitate an environment, at least for international travel, based on facial recognition that is completely tokenless, paperless, and automated,” he said. “We’ve got a feasible path, we’ve got the right technology, and we’ve got the right support from the stakeholders to drive this. I think we’ll be able to do this in the next few years.”
Acting CBP Commissioner Kevin McAleenan said “it is clear that biometric [technology] is the enabler. We’re seeing convergence in the use of biometrics, and facial recognition has emerged as the clear winner for our operations”.
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