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In Sydney Airport, Your Face Is Your Passport

Travelers Today       By    MJ De Castro

Updated: Jul 08, 2018 09:28 PM EDT

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Passengers on selected Qantas international flights will be able to use facial recognition technology at Sydney Airport for the most parts of their trip. The technology will streamline processes and enable travelers to use their faces as their passports.

(Photo: Brian | Wikimedia Commons)

Passengers of Qantas at Sydney Airport will be the first ones to try the facial recognition technology, which uses their face scans.

The new plan is a move to eradicate the inconvenience of relying on traditional paper passports. The technology is being trialed on select international flights operated by Qantas.

The plan was announced last year following a controversial law passed in 2015, which allows the government to access biometric information from citizens, including foreign travelers and minors in the country's airports.

How It Works

Passengers will be asked if they would like to participate in the trial. If they agree, they will have their photo taken at a special kiosk, scan their passport, and check in. This creates the link between their passport, photo, and booking information. Additionally, Sydney Airport will be responsible for every passenger's data.

During the testing, passengers will be using the technology to check in, drop off their baggage, access the lounge area, and board the flight. Future trials in Sydney Airport is set to include mobile check-in and automated border processing.

According to John Coyne, head of border security for the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, the process would streamline the arrivals process of passengers, which enables them to walk out just like at a domestic airport. The move is at its early stage and is not being implemented overnight. The process will be a heavy task considering Sydney's 43 million annual passengers.

Geoff Culbert, Sydney Airport CEO, said that the airport has worked with Qantas for the undertaking and are happy to partner with them. He added that soon, passengers will no longer juggle their passports and baggage while checking in, and dig through their phones or pockets for their boarding pass because their face will be their passport and boarding pass at every step.

Privacy Concerns

Passengers concerned with privacy are assured that consent would be "actively sought." It would follow strict privacy standards and obey the legislation.

Dr. Bruce Baer Arnold, an assistant professor and privacy expert from the University of Canberra, told The Australian Financial Review that the trial will most likely be monitored by government departments and big corporates. He added that this would be the start of the use of biometric technology adoption in public spaces.

He added that the technology can be adapted across both private and public sectors. Although there will definitely be privacy concerns, there are also advantages.

Dr. Arnold also mentioned that the said approach can spread to Central Station in Sydney, Southern Cross stations in Melbourne, and other transport locations. If the security rationale is about stopping and preventing terrorism, it can also be extended to stadiums, shopping malls, and public squares.

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airport, Qantas, sydney, technology
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