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Air travel now is so ridiculously cheap, the biggest obstacle to speedy travel is the congestion at checkpoints at airports. As more and more people travel by air, it only makes sense to automate security checks as much as possible using biometric checkers – facial recognitions, gait recognition, head shape, or fingerprints.

“When a lot of people gather in one place, queues develop quickly,” said Raghavendra Ramachandra, postdoctoral fellow at the Biometric Laboratory of the Norwegian University of Science and Technology. “Rather than stop every single person at an airport gate, we’ve developed algorithms that recognize people’s faces, based on electronic passports with a photo and ID number.”

This would allow individuals who are already identified, recognised, and authorised to pass through security more quickly, thus easing airport congestion.

Ramachandra is not blasé about individuals’ privacy, and has considered measures to protect it. “Privacy is our top priority. The information on individuals’ movements is not stored in the databases. If someone were to hack the databases, they wouldn’t be able to reconstruct the data,” Ramachandra said.

While the European Union has particularly stringent privacy protections, some countries are not as strict. Several Asian countries have initiated biometric information collection programmes for national ID databases.

Centralised storage of such data would not be possible in many other places due to the rigorous privacy protection laws, but other solutions are at hand, such as decentralised storage.

“As researchers, we try to minimize the risk of personal information going astray. There’s always the possibility of being hacked when you save information digitally, but in using biometrics we try to mitigate this risk by avoiding centralized storage,” he said.

These systems could also be cross-checked against databases of known suspects, terrorists, and criminals. Biometric recognition systems in airports could not also speed up travel, but also greatly improve safety.