Your ugly mug may be scanned yet again – but at least you'll be able to board faster at Gatwick

Brit airport to extend facial recog after easyJet trial


Gatwick Airport will extend its use of facial recognition to match passengers to their passports at departure gates before they board planes.

The original trial with easyJet scanned passengers' faces when they used self-service luggage drop-off points on their way to European destinations. We're sure at least some of those self-service points worked.

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A spokeswoman for the airport told the Beeb: "Gatwick [is now planning] a second trial in the next six months and then rolling out auto-boarding technology on eight departure gates in the North Terminal when it opens a new extension to its Pier 6 departure facility in 2022."

She said that the trial showed passengers found the tech easy to use and its use led to faster boarding times and less time spent queuing.

The news comes at a challenging time for facial recognition more broadly.

In the US, there has been blowback against widespread use of the technology. San Francisco recently banned any use of biometric technology by public bodies in the city. Attaching the technology to police body-worn cameras has also been criticised.

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In the UK, which has a higher tolerance for surveillance, the technology is increasingly being used in public spaces – like King's Cross in London. Landlords there were handed a database of images by the Metropolitan Police to load onto its AI-powered spotter system, which ran between 2016 and 2018. The Information Commissioner's Office is investigating the mass snoop.

Given acceptance of ePassport gates, smut scanners and other invasive tech as part of the security theatre at airports, we can't see many objections being raised.

Passengers can opt out of using the face scanners and Privacy International told the BBC the airport should seek genuine consent, especially when scanning children.

Gatwick said no data would be stored for longer than a few seconds during the trial, which had been designed to comply with relevant data protection laws.

We've contacted the airport and will update this story if we get more details. ®

Updated at 1040 on 18/09/19 to add:

Gatwick sent us the following statement:

Last year Gatwick ran one of the most extensive passenger trials of biometric auto-boarding technology with over 20,000 international passengers experiencing the technology for the first time across a whole range of European destinations.

More than 90 per cent of those interviewed said they found the technology extremely easy to use and the trial demonstrated faster boarding of the aircraft for the airline and a significant reduction in queue time for passengers. Gatwick is now collating all the data in order to further develop and optimise the technological solution with a view to rolling out auto-boarding technology on eight departure gates in the North Terminal when it opens a new extension to its Pier 6 departure facility in 2022.

One of the major benefits for passengers will be the open gate-room concept that Gatwick will be able to enable with this technology. This will allow passengers to spend more time enjoying the shops or having a last minute coffee before boarding their flight.

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