Queen's Policy Engagement

When your face is your boarding pass you are holidaying with Big Brother

Facial-recognition technology may be presented as a convenient way to move through airport security, but Dr Birgit Schippers argues that it poses a serious threat to our human rights and civil liberties.

When your face is your boarding pass you are holidaying with Big Brother

Imagine moving through an airport without producing your passport or boarding pass at key touch points. Imagine that you can get through check-in and passport control by just showing your face. Machines will read and analyse your face, instruct you to your departure gate, and organise your duty-free shopping and boarding. Instead of spending time in long queues, you transition swiftly through expedited lanes. Sounds good? Then imagine the same process on arrival, as you proceed through another set of passport controls before collecting your luggage. In fact, why not use your face for a speedy car hire and hotel check-in before heading to the beach or pool? All this is possible as a result of facial-recognition technology.

Such technology has been introduced at Shannon and Dublin airports, at Heathrow and Amsterdam Schiphol, and it is trialled at airports of many of our popular holiday destinations. Speed, security and the overall enhancement of our travel experience are the main selling points of this end-to-end travel experience. But facial-recognition technology comes at a price. It is a biometric convenience trap that promises expediency in exchange for something very precious: our privacy and our fundamental rights.

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Article originally appeared in the Irish Times.


The featured image has been used courtesy of a Creative Commons license. 

Dr Birgit Schippers
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Dr Birgit Schippers is a Senior Lecturer in Politics in St Mary's University College Belfast. She is currently a visiting Research Fellow at the Senator George J Mitchell Institute for Global Peace, Security and Justice at Queen's University Belfast. Birgit's research works at the intersection of critical political theory, international studies and global ethics.

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