Dubai Airport Installs Facial Recognition Tunnel

Will this tunnel improve security or invade privacy?

If you own a digital passport, you’ll be familiar with the facial recognition gates at major airports. You place your passport on a scanner, peer into a camera and, unless you’re blatantly impersonating someone else, a gate lets you through. The automated process frees up airport staff, helping to ferry people in and out of busy terminals. At the Dubai International Airport, however, things are being taken to a whole new level – a subterranean one, in fact.

As of summer 2018, Terminal 3 will be home to a new ‘virtual aquarium’ which scans passengers’ facial features as they walk through a visually captivating tunnel. While they look around at digital fish swimming on the screens, 80 cameras scan their face and eyes. By fishing out data from a huge database of faces, the system can verify an individual’s identity. Although this doesn’t remove the need to check bags and other luggage, it will help to tighten security within the airport. It also demonstrates the ongoing adoption of facial recognition technology in different industries. Virtual aquariums will be installed at other terminals over the next few years.

Despite speeding up security clearance, there are obvious concerns about privacy. Some passengers simply won’t be comfortable with handing over their facial data. Unfortunately, this could be detrimental to people who wish to travel but don’t want to be added to a mass facial recognition database. The challenge for airports will be to juggle the needs of early adopters and more wary individuals, building an infrastructure which supports the needs of both kinds of passenger.

*Photo: Satish-Kumar-for-‘The-National’