UK airport tests facial-recognition technology

Manchester Airport is testing facial-recognition technology as part of the UK £1.2bn e-Borders scheme to tighten controls.

The facial-recognition system, provided by Fujitsu Services in partnership with Vision-Box, works by scanning passengers’ faces and uses automatic gates in an attempt to both tighten border security and speed up immigration processing times.

New facial recognition gates will use scanning equipment to compare the faces of UK and EU passengers to their biometric passports. The system enables passengers holding electronic passports and arriving through Terminal 1 at Manchester airport to fast-track through immigration with no prior registration.

If successful these gates could be rolled-out across the country.

The Government’s electronic border system – e-Borders – will mean every passenger will be counted in and out of Britain and checked against immigration and security watch-lists by 2014. Around 99 percent of foreign nationals from outside the European Economic Area (EEA) will be tracked in and out of Britain by 2010, the Home Office announced last week.

The e-Borders system has already screened 50 million passengers travelling to Britain, leading to more than 2,000 arrests, including murderers, drug dealers and sex offenders, the government has claimed.

Home secretary Jacqui Smith said: “Our high-tech electronic borders system will allow us to count all foreign nationals in and out of the UK, while checking them against watch-lists.”

“These checks make up just one part of Britain’s triple ring of security, alongside fingerprint visas for three-quarters of the world’s population, and the roll-out of ID cards for foreign nationals locking people to one identity.”

The government also announced that a new high-tech center for e-Border will be based in Manchester, where they intend to tackle drug, gun, immigration and sex crime with a force made up of 9,000 working staff and 3,000 police officers. By 2010, its staff will monitor almost every foreign passenger travelling in and out of Britain.