Feeds

UK airports to trial face scan passport checks

If your face fits, you're in

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

The UK Border Agency hopes to conduct trials of automated passport-check gates at UK airports this summer. The gates would use computer software to compare a traveller's face with the information stored in new biometric passports, removing the need for human staff.

"Britain's border security is now amongst the toughest in the world and tougher checks do take time," said Immigration Minister Liam Byrne in a statement.

"But we don't want long waits so the UKBA will soon be testing new automatic gates for British citizens. We'll test them this year and if they work, put them at all key ports."

The face-scanner gates would be expected to turn back a proportion of people erroneously, but these individuals would still be able to go through a conventional manned channel. So would the holders of older non-biometric passports.

All new UK passports issued since 2006 contain facial biometric data. It is estimated that more than eight million are in circulation. Future generations of the technology are supposed to introduce fingerprint and perhaps iris signatures as well.

Technology of this type has a reputation for poor accuracy, but on the other hand security analysts acknowledge that mass photo ID checks by human security staff aren't all that reliable either. The UKBA seems to think that face-recognition tech is now at a point where it may be as good as people who must compare hundreds of faces and photos every day.

In one recent test, researchers claimed to have achieved 100 per cent accuracy with automated face-spotter kit using a gallery of images. However, in general a much higher error rate is seen as normal. A trial last year by German authorities in which cameras were installed at a train station to see if they could recognise 200 known faces among thousands of unknowns averaged only a 30 per cent hit rate.

The Immigration and Passport Service (IPS) didn't seem all that sanguine about the state of the automated face scan art last year, telling the National Audit Office that "there is good potential in the future for one-to-one comparison of the image held on the passport chip with the passport holder... which could eventually enable automated border control". It was also widely noted that the chips in the new passports have only a two-year warranty from the manufacturer, but are expected to last ten years.

Home Office spokespersons contacted this morning emphasised that this summer would see only "pilot schemes", and that the technology would not be widely rolled out if problems were found. ®

Beginner's guide to SSL certificates

More from The Register

next story
Phones 4u slips into administration after EE cuts ties with Brit mobe retailer
More than 5,500 jobs could be axed if rescue mission fails
Driving with an Apple Watch could land you with a £100 FINE
Bad news for tech-addicted fanbois behind the wheel
Phones 4u website DIES as wounded mobe retailer struggles to stay above water
Founder blames 'ruthless network partners' for implosion
Radio hams can encrypt, in emergencies, says Ofcom
Consultation promises new spectrum and hints at relaxed licence conditions
Special pleading against mass surveillance won't help anyone
Protecting journalists alone won't protect their sources
Big Content Australia just blew a big hole in its credibility
AHEDA's research on average content prices did not expose methodology, so appears less than rigourous
Vodafone to buy 140 Phones 4u stores from stricken retailer
887 jobs 'preserved' in the process, says administrator PwC
prev story

Whitepapers

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops
Balancing user privacy and privileged access, in accordance with compliance frameworks and legislation. Evaluating any potential remote control choice.
Intelligent flash storage arrays
Tegile Intelligent Storage Arrays with IntelliFlash helps IT boost storage utilization and effciency while delivering unmatched storage savings and performance.
WIN a very cool portable ZX Spectrum
Win a one-off portable Spectrum built by legendary hardware hacker Ben Heck
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Beginner's guide to SSL certificates
De-mystify the technology involved and give you the information you need to make the best decision when considering your online security options.