British Airways is rolling out its biometric gates at more US airports.

British Airways is rolling out its biometric gates at more US airports.

British Airways has announced that it is expanding trials of its biometric gates to three other US airports in Orlando, Miami and New York.

The technology has been tested on BA flights from Los Angeles LAX to Heathrow since November, where BA claims to have helped the airline board 400 customers in just 22 minutes, less than half the time it takes without the technology. technology.

Now, customers flying from Orlando International Airport to Gatwick can also benefit from faster boarding, and passengers on some BA flights from Heathrow to Miami and New York will experience similar tests, only on arrival rather than on arrival. the exit.

For the Orlando and LA tests, passengers no longer need to show their boarding pass and passport at the gate. To introduce such technology, the airline has worked in collaboration with the US Customs and Border Protection (CBP), which provides the records with which the airline verifies the identities of passengers.

“Our latest trial with SITA in Orlando is helping us reduce the time it takes to board our aircraft, and early indications are that the use of biometric data for arrivals also has great potential,” said Carolina Martinoli, director of British Airways brand and customer experience. . “These tests will help us develop the technology and processes we use to better suit our customers’ needs.”

In January, BA’s biometric gates caused a stir when a passenger reported that he had been unable to opt out of a trial on a flight from Heathrow Terminal 5. The original story continues below.

The original story continues

A photo of a seemingly innocuous sign at Heathrow’s Terminal 5 last week sparked a minor Twitter storm after an IoT security specialist posted it online.

David Rogers took a photo of the sign before an international flight at London Airport. The left side of the sign read, “We are testing a new process today and welcome any feedback,” while the right side read, “We are running tests here to assess how new equipment might speed up identity checks. ”

The key phrase, which caused the mini-storm, was: “The tests are voluntary. If you don’t want to participate, let us know.” Rogers claimed that when he asked BA staff how to opt out of the trial, they told him it wasn’t possible, prompting concerned responses and retweets from flyers.

The first attempt at biometric automated border control was in 1992 in Amsterdam, and fingerprinting has been used for more than a decade. E-Passports have become increasingly widespread since 2004 and are now commonplace at all major UK airports.

British Airways has been using its new facial recognition technology and so-called “biometric gates” on domestic flights at Heathrow Terminal 5 (T5) since last June. It later began testing it on flights from Los Angeles LAX Airport in December.

“If airlines roll out facial recognition more widely, we will need measures to protect citizens’ privacy by ensuring data access is proportionate and responsible, and not open to misuse.”
The aim of BA’s “biometric gates” is primarily to make the registration process faster and easier. They do not strictly add anything in terms of security, but instead automate an existing manual process. After your face is scanned through security, computer software (rather than a human agent) is used to confirm your identity at the gate of your flight.

British Airways responded to Roger’s tweet, saying it was keen to hear what passengers feel about the new trials of facial recognition equipment, but did not address privacy concerns, apparently not understanding what Rogers was saying and joining in. the confusion.

We also reached out to BA for comment on Rogers’ experience and were told by a representative that he had been given the information in error.

“It is voluntary for clients to participate in any tests that are carried out; We regret that incorrect information was transmitted on this occasion,” the company representative told us. The company explained that you can opt out of the trial by asking a BA staff member, but that would not prevent your image from being fully captured.

The thing is, when you use BA’s “biometric gates” at Heathrow Terminal 5, no more information is actually captured compared to a human-controlled gate. The scan of your face when you first present your boarding pass at security, a procedure carried out by the airport rather than the airline, is done anyway, the only difference being that a computer confirms your identity instead of a person.

“Until systems are fully tested (both in functionality and security/privacy), they should be optional,” Dr. Garfield Benjamin of the Birmingham Center for Cyber ​​Security and Privacy at the University of Birmingham told Alphr.

“At a minimum, it must be clear to passengers what is happening and how it affects their data. If airlines roll out facial recognition more widely, we will need measures to protect citizens’ privacy by ensuring data access is proportionate and responsible, and not open to misuse.”

As Dr. Benjamin continued, a more valid concern is not about our biometric data being captured at airports, but about the balancing act between “national security [and] the commercial interests of airlines and technology providers.”

“They should not, for example, be able to exploit our identity data for targeted advertising,” he explains.

Researchers at the Birmingham Center for Cyber ​​Security and Privacy are working on a solution. Dr. Benjamin’s colleagues, Professor Mark Ryan and Dr. David Galindo, are developing technology that ensures security services leave a trail every time they access our private data.

“It’s an idea called ‘responsible decryption,’” said Dr. Benjamin. “More generally, this is the notion that security services need to access data in specific circumstances (eg passport control), but shouldn’t be able to do so without leaving a trace.”

“Responsible decryption allows authorities to access personal data (such as biometrics for facial recognition at airports) in a way that ensures that it is always proportionate in holding it accountable. Citizens could know when, why and who has accessed their data”.

Dr. Benjamin believes it should be applied in all cases where our biometric data is used for security checks, including airlines using facial recognition software.

Melissa Galbraith
Melissa Galbraith is the World News reporter for Globe Live Media. She covers all the major events happening around the World. From Europe to Americas, from Asia to Antarctica, Melissa covers it all. Never miss another Major World Event by bookmarking her author page right here.