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U.S. Customs says biometric entry and exit is coming first to this airport

Entering and exiting an international airport through customs powered by biometrics is becoming closer to reality than science fiction. The Orlando International Airport, the busiest airport in Florida, is slated to be the first U.S. airport using biometrics at both the entry and exit for travelers crossing borders. The airport’s commitment, which doesn’t yet appear to have a completion date, was announced on Thursday, June 21 by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and Greater Orlando Aviation Authority (GOAA).

CBP is already testing a facial-recognition exit in 13 airports and arrival at 10 airports, but Orlando International is the first in the country that has made the commitment to implementing both for international travel. The biometric entry and exit uses facial recognition because implementing the cameras has a minimal impact (read: cost) on the airline infrastructure already in place, the CBP suggests. The system verifies the identity of passengers boarding and leaving international flights at the gates, in addition to passing through traditional security when arriving at the airport.

Comparison data for photographs is also already on hand through data from the Department of Homeland Security, another reason the facial recognition was selected out of the biometrics programs researched. The lack of a photograph also alerts airport security, as CBP shared in an early look at the technology. Scanning faces and matching with a photo takes less than two seconds, CBP says, with a 99 percent accuracy rate.

The government mandated research into biometric airport security in 2002, and two years later, required biometric data, when leaving the country, from travelers that aren’t U.S. citizens.

“We are at a critical turning point in the implementation of a biometric entry-exit system, and we’ve found a path forward that transforms travel for all travelers,” CBP Commissioner Kevin McAleenan said in a press release. “The valuable collaboration with stakeholder partners like GOAA has resulted in real momentum and it has brought us to where we are today, the first fully biometric entry-exit deployment at an airport.”

The move comes as airports are seeing an increasing number of travelers and, in turn, increasing wait times through security. While Orlando is the first committing to both biometric entry and exit, the program isn’t the first to implement facial-recognition security. Earlier this year, an airline at Los Angeles International Airport passed testing for a similar system.

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