Facial recognition technology for Heathrow airport next year

December 1, 2009

Via BCS, IT Pro Portal, Computer Weekly and others, it seems that the UK government is taking another step towards turning Britain into a totalitarian state.

In a bid to beef up the security measures ahead of 2012 Olympics in London, airport operator BAA has announced its intention to employ an electronic border gates system in the city’s Heathrow Airport from the start of the next year.

The operator noted that it would be deploying the ‘Automated Clearance System’ for the passengers coming out of the European Union region, as well as those not having biometric passports.

However, the fast track system would cost a considerable $80 a year to travellers, but then it will apparently shorten the hitherto long check-in queues at the airport by making the entire procedure a lot quicker. [IT Pro Portal]

The new electronic border gates will allow travellers over 18 with biometric passports to return to the UK using facial recognition technology.

It works by comparing the picture taken at the gate with that on the passport as well as cross-checking against any watch lists held by the UK Border Agency. [BCS]

At first glance, this all sounds like Britain following in the footsteps of the U.S., where the scheme to introduce body scanners at various airports was dramatically expanded back in the spring. But the mention of biometrics and facial recognition technology makes me wonder if this has just as much to do with the national database system rollout which is proceeding apace elsewhere, as it has with “security measures ahead of 2012 Olympics”.

And it seems it’s coming to an airport near you soon:

The system has been extensively tested at Birmingham, Bristol, and Stansted airport, with official roll outs at Gatwick and Manchester this week. [IT Pro Portal]

Paranoid, me? Quite possibly.
Paranoid, the government? Answers on the back of a £10 note to the usual address…

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