Orlando airport to begin scanning passengers’ faces

The airport is about to become the first in the US to require the technology for passengers on all arriving and departing international flights

Passengers at Orlando airport will soon undergo a new security-enhancing procedure. The airport will start to use face-scanning technology on all departing and arriving international flights – the first to do so in the United States,.

Orlando will be the first airport in the US to use facial-recognition for passengers on all international flights — Shutterstock Orlando airport to scan faces of passengers, facial recognition, Orlando scans
Orlando will be the first airport in the US to use facial-recognition for passengers on all international flights – Shutterstock

The measure has been launched by the Customs and Border Protection as an experimental program that should place facial-recognition devices to 13 airports eventually.

The screening process, which lasts about 2 seconds, takes a picture of passenger’s face and compares it with the Department of Homeland Security travel databases with a 99 per cent match rate.

“We are at a critical turning point in the implementation of a biometric entry-exit system, and we’ve found a path forward that transforms travel for all travellers,” said Kevin McAleenan, CBP Commissioner.

“We are committed to delivering a premier travel experience to Orlando International Airport’s more than five million annual international passengers,” said Phil Brown, CEO of the Greater Orlando Aviation Authority.

“By incorporating biometric technology into our entry and exit processes, safety, security and speed are optimized so customers can enjoy a more streamlined and comfortable journey through Florida’s busiest airport.”

However, the technology, that will cost Orlando airport about $4 million, is facing criticism from privacy advocates saying that there are no formal rules in place for handling the acquired data.

John Wagner, an official with US Customs and Border Protection, defended the program. He said the images would only be stored for 14 days and will serve only to identify traveller’s identity.

“We’re comparing you against a photograph you’ve given the U.S. government for the purposes of travel,” Wagner said. “You know your picture is being taken. You’re standing in front of a camera. There’s nothing subversive about this, and we’re only comparing you against your passport photo.”

The measure still leaves US citizens the option to opt out. However, according to Harrison Rudolph, an associate at the Center on Privacy & Technology at the Georgetown University Law Center, the agency “doesn’t seem to be doing an adequate job letting Americans know they can opt out”.

Airports in Atlanta, Chicago, Boston, Las Vegas, Miami, Houston, New York and Washington have already implemented the technology for some flights. Orlando’s expansion to all international flights makes the airport first in the U.S operating in such scale.