Facial Recognition Systems Could Replace Passports At International Airports In Australia

The system could go into effect across the country as early as March 2019.

In just a few years, you may not need a passport to travel internationally to Australia. 

Officials from the nation's Department of Immigration and Border Protection hope to streamline the process for international travelers by installing a system that would make it so that they can directly exit the airport like they would after a domestic flight. The new process would replace passport and immigration desks with an identification system that uses biometric technology to match faces, irises, and fingerprints to existing data. 

"Our ability to harness the power of big data is increasing exponentially," John Coyne, head of border security at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, told The Sydney Morning Herald.

This new system would retire the SmartGates, which were implemented to scan passports electronically less than 10 years ago. 

Government officials plans to have the system in place that will allow 90 percent of travelers to be processed automatically without ever having to talk to a real person by 2020, according to The Guardian



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That's the idea, anyway. It doesn't seem like members of the Department of Immigration and Border Protection have nailed down the technology they will be implementing just yet. 

"The department is asking tenderers to provide innovative solutions to allow arriving travelers to self-process," an immigration spokeswoman said. "The department has not therefore defined the specific solution or how it will differ from existing arrivals or departures SmartGates."

The department's plan is to pilot the program at Canberra Airport, which handles limited flights limited flights to Singapore and New Zealand, as early as July and then introduce the technology to a major airport such as Sydney or Melbourne in November. They hope to have a complete rollout in international airports across the country by March 2019.

The technology could certainly help to make travel for international passengers easier, but there are certainly potential downsides. For one, the program could cut airport security worker's hours or eliminate their jobs completely. For another, biometric technology has raised privacy concerns and revealed a pattern of racial bias in the past

Still, the department is hopeful that the technology will make the airport more efficient and will make it easier to detect threats. 

"Already we know from the money we've invested into biometrics collections that that is a much more reliable collection than we have with people just scanning manually passports," Immigration Minister Peter Dutton told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. "So there is the ability through this technology to improve detections of people that might be coming into our country to do the wrong thing."

Cover image via Unsplash

(H/T: Gizmodo

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