Facial recognition technology to replace passports at Australian airports

Vision-Box Australia will be rolling out new smart gate technology that is expected to negate the need for 'known passengers' to hand over their passports.
Written by Asha Barbaschow, Contributor

New technology will be rolled out at Australian airports that will eventually see the end of "known passengers" producing their passports when arriving in the country.

Minister for Immigration and Border Protection Peter Dutton said on Wednesday the new AU$22.5 million, three-year contract will initially see 105 new smartgates rolled out that will enable passengers to be processed using facial recognition.

It is estimated 40 million people cleared Australia's borders last year, with the figure tipped to reach 50 million in three years, the minister said in a statement.

"The idea of this will be through new technology that is using facial recognition that in some cases if you've got a passport that can be read you won't even have to present the passport," Dutton told the Seven Network. "It will make it much quicker going through the immigration process."

Vision-Box Australia will be charged with rolling out the technology.

Vision-Box, headquartered in Portugal, recently implemented a facial recognition pilot program at New York's JFK Airport, an initiative led by Delta and US Customs and Border Protection.

Speaking at the ASIAL Security Conference in Sydney on Wednesday, Neil Campbell, director of Security Practice at Telstra, explained that Telstra is deploying its own facial recognition technology at its two new Security Operations Centres (SOCs) which will be opened next month in both Melbourne and Sydney.

Campbell explained the telco has built its SOCs to the ASIO-T4 standard -- a standard from the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation that is used by government departments, agencies, business enterprises, and critical infrastructure owners.

"To get into the level four area you need biometric authentication, so that's where we've deployed that -- which is an appropriate use because it's required to meet the requirements of a standard, to meet the law," he said.

"So as you try to sneak into our SOC, you'll need to badge in, you'll need to be retina scanned, facial recognition, and then you get access to the SOC. And if you didn't go through all of that and try to get into any system in the SOC, you get rejected and an alarm is created."

Campbell also pointed to a border security project that a partner of Telstra's, Corvus, is involved in with the United States government.

"Interesting in that for border security we can do things like, a combination of facial recognition, gate recognition, and also retina scanning up to about 10 metres -- and that's actually pretty cool, albeit invasive -- I like the thought of standing back from a machine and having it do its magic without feeling like I'm about to get a needle in my eye," he said.

"For an ex-cop I'm pretty anti-biometrics. I think they have their place, but you need to know why -- why am I deploying biometrics? Is it because it's cool? Is it because it's possible? Or is it because it's necessary?"

Earlier this month, the Department of Immigration and Border Protection published a request for tender for the provision of automated processing at Australian ports, which follows the airport initiative in requesting an Automated Border Control solution that would eliminate the need for physical tickets and have the ability to process travellers using contactless technology.

The Department of Immigration and Border Protection was given a total of AU$95.4 million in funding under the federal government's 2017-18 Budget, with AU$59.9 million over four years to be spent on enhancing biometric storage and processing capabilities.

With AAP

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