London Gatwick to Install Facial Recognition Software

While many airports within the UK have experimented (and discarded) facial recognition software to speed up ID checks on incoming and outgoing flights, London Gatwick has announced it will be the first to do so permanently. A spokesperson for the airport noted that while the new technology is likely to decrease queue times within the terminal, passengers are still advised to have their passports ready.

The technology will utilize facial recognition to make it easier and faster for passengers to board their flights. Over 90% of customers who used the technology during its first trial stated that it was easy to use and resulted in faster boarding times. Gatwick intends to run another six-month trial period and then rolling out the technology in eight departure gates forming a new extension to the Pier 6 departure facility.

Concerns about Consent

As with all implementations for facial recognition software, the issue of data protection and privacy have come up. A civil liberties group is concerned that the system as Gatwick has it implemented now may lead to problems in opting out. The group states that the airport needs to deploy proper signage to inform passengers that their data is being collected and used. The signage informing passengers needs to be more widespread, the group says. A broader spread of information would enable consumers to know facial recognition is being used before they get to the departure gate. The added time would allow them to decide whether they wanted to use the technology or not.

Gatwick’s spokesperson insists that the system is designed to be compliant with all current data protection legislation. Additionally, passengers can decide whether they want to use the automated system or if they prefer having a human check their passport instead. Children below a certain age will still need the guidance and consent of their parents or guardians, but Gatwick has yet to determine where the cutoff age for this will be.