Chicago O’Hare Joins in Deployment of Biometric Exit Technology


    Delta’s biometric identification and management exit system at JFK. Image via Delta Air Lines

    APEX Insight: The US government is relying on biometrics to keep tabs on who’s leaving the country, and the rollout is underway.

    US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) is deploying biometric facial-recognition technology at Chicago O’Hare International Airport (ORD) for select outgoing flights. This rollout builds on the tests that began last year at Atlanta International Airport, and the technology has since been deployed at Washington Dulles and George Bush Intercontinental Airport.

    Biometric exit technology lets the CBP build a photo gallery of flyers, based on matches from facial scans to existing flight manifests. Captured photos of US passport holders are discarded after an unspecified period of time, according to a CBP press release.

    So far, JetBlue and Delta have announced collaborations with the CBP. JetBlue is testing biometric boarding at Boston’s Logan International Airport, while Delta tests CBP eGate technology at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta and John F. Kennedy international airports.

    “Through our consultations with the airlines and airport stakeholders, and based on the success of several pilots, CBP determined that facial recognition was a viable exit solution,” said John Wagner, deputy executive assistant commissioner, Office of Field Operations, CBP. “With the expansion of this technology we will be looking at different flights, airports, lighting conditions, and internal IT configurations to demonstrate to our stakeholders that this solution is flexible, reliable and easy for travelers to use.”

    This is part of a larger plan for the US government to start monitoring who is leaving the country: at the moment, all they have is whatever manifest information the airlines have gathered in the course of passenger ticket purchase and check-in. This rollout raises once again the questions of scope creep and bias, which, according to The Verge, the CBP has yet to satisfactorily answer.

    North of the 49th Parallel, Canadian airports will be replacing their self-serve border-clearance kiosks with versions capable of facial recognition, much like what a passenger finds when using a NEXUS kiosk. You’ll see these in Ottawa first. Meanwhile, Vinci Airports, which manages 35 airports around the world, is also rolling out biometric token experiments.