Facial recognition trials at Manchester Airport

Published 26 August 2008

Five gates at Manchester Airport will be equipped with face recognition devices; gates can only be used with people from the United Kingdom and EU who are over 18 and hold a new-style chipped passport

U.K. Home Secretary Jacqui Smith has officially launched an airport trial of facial recognition technology. The new equipment automatically scans passport photos and matches them to the biometric records held by the authorities. The government says the five new gates being trialled at Manchester Airport will improve the speed at which travellers pass through border control and add to security. The new gates can only be used with people from the United Kingdom and EU who are over 18 and hold a new-style chipped passport.

Smith said: “The U.K. has one of the toughest borders in the world and we are determined to ensure it stays that way. Our hi-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.”

Facial recognition technology is already in use in all major Portuguese international airports and self-service border control barriers have been in use in Singapore, Hong Kong, and Malaysia for some years.

The new gates at Manchester will be supervised by Border Agency staff. It is hoped they will allow more people to go through the borders at the same time, thereby reducing waiting time. This will allow other Border Agency staff to concentrate on higher risk flights and passengers. As yet there are only five facial recognition gates at the airport’s Terminal One — though about 80,000 passengers pass through every day. If successful the scheme will be extended, and a similar trial-run is planned later in the year at Stansted Airport.