Gatwick Airport Expands Biometric Boarding Program

Biometrics News - Gatwick Airport Expands Biometric Boarding Program

The UK’s Gatwick Airport is planning to make biometric boarding permanent following a successful trial with EasyJet. A second self-boarding trial will begin in the next six months, with the technology to then be installed at eight departure gates when the North Terminal’s Pier 6 expansion opens in 2022.

The new gates will use facial recognition to match people’s faces to the photo in their passports, which means that passengers will need to carry their passport with them to perform a scan. They’ll also need to show their boarding passes at bag-check security. 

The system is slightly less convenient than last year’s trial, which initially scanned people’s faces at luggage drop-off. Airline officials nevertheless argued that the system will improve the passenger experience.

“More than 90 percent of those interviewed said they found the technology extremely easy to use and the trial demonstrated faster boarding of the aircraft for the airline and a significant reduction in queue time for passengers,” said an airport spokeswoman.

Since gates won’t capture people’s faces until they’re ready to board the plane, the Gatwick system is more limited in scope than similar systems in China and elsewhere that use facial recognition to track people’s journey through the airport. Privacy advocates, meanwhile, are worried about consent if people – especially children – are not aware that they can opt for a manual check at the boarding gate.

“Placing general or vague signs that merely let individuals know that this technology is being deployed, once individuals are already inside the check-in area, is inadequate, in our view, to satisfy the strict transparency and consent requirements imposed by data-protection laws,” said Privacy International’s Ioannis Kouvakas.

Gatwick officials said that children beneath a certain age will need parental consent to use the system, and that people’s personal information would only be stored for a matter of seconds during the check itself.

Source: The BBC

September 18, 2019 – by Eric Weiss