The struggle to turn your face into secure travel ID

|     Justin Bachman     |

THE global travel industry is looking to replace your paper tickets and security documents with your biometric data in an effort to ease gridlock.

The International Civil Aviation Organization, the United Nation’s (UN) aviation body, met recently in Montreal to discuss ways to bridge the gulf between physical and digital travel documents.

At least 53 biometric systems are used by the industry for everything from airline boarding to hotel check-in, according to the World Travel and Tourism Council.

Each is typically unique to a particular venue. British Airways’ boarding gates in New York, Los Angeles, London and Orlando, for instance, use facial recognition, while Clear, a New York-based private security screening company, uses iris and fingerprint scans to move passengers through security checks.

The current lack of global standards frustrates achievement of a seamless journey from airport curb to destination city.

A Transportation Security Administration (TSA) agent works at a check-point at LaGuardia Airport in New York

“Right now it’s very fragmented,” said the council’s President and Chief Executive Officer Gloria Guevara. “We need to make sure that there is some interoperability among these different models.”

Reducing travel friction and increasing security is critical for the industry, which is expecting passenger growth from 4.6 billion this year to 8.2 billion in 2037 – a surge that current methods will be unable to handle, Guevara said.

Beyond biometric security measures, airlines are working on new data standards for traveler records, called One ID, to “liberate the industry from a century of accumulated legacies,” Alexandre de Juniac, Chief Executive Officer of the airlines’ global trade group, the International Air Transport Association, said last week.

“With One ID, passengers will no longer be subject to repetitive document checks from check-in to the departure gate,” said de Juniac while addressing a crowd in Athens at a symposium on aviation data. “Air travellers have told us that they are willing to share personal information if it removes some of the hassle from air travel, as long as that information is kept secure and not misused.”

Passengers have, in the past, expressed concerns about their privacy when asked to share biometric data. Recently, the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board, an independent agency in the United States (US) government’s executive branch, said it would review benefits and privacy concerns arising from biometric tech use in aviation. – Text and Photo by WP-Bloomberg