back to article Heathrow to get new facial recognition scanners

Passengers going through terminals one and five at Heathrow will have their faces scanned from September before they board their planes, airport operator BAA has announced. Travellers will be enrolled into a facial recognition system and the biometrics linked with the boarding pass on entry into the common user lounges at the …


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  1. s. pam Silver badge
    Paris Hilton


    We do sweet F.A. for the national borders by the Sea and the Chunnel but we're going to institute facial recognition to stop passengers swapping tickets.

    Who gives a flying fuck UKBA?

    You've already allowed 2-3M dole sucking, work avoiding scum into the country to suck off of the public tit.

    Speaking of tits, Paris fits as even she is smarter that you fuckwits over this idiotic £ wasting scheme.

    1. Dale 3

      Sea borders

      Hey, don't say they don't do security theatre at the UK sea borders. Last year while travelling out of Dover on a coach trip, our coach was randomly pulled out for screening, and 5 bags were randomly pulled out of the hold for X-raying.

      Fair enough, I suppose, random searches for drugs and so on. But then the 5 owners of the 5 bags were required to get off the bus and also walk through the metal detector. Now what, do you suppose, was that meant to achieve? They didn't search the coach itself, so anyone with contraband on his person is surely just going to leave it behind on the coach.

    2. Graham Marsden
      Thumb Down


      Pity, you were in line for an upvote until you started channeling the Daily Mail...

  2. petur


    Adding 4.7 seconds to the checkpoint will make everything faster? Yeah, right...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      4.7 seconds multiplied by how many people travel through the airport in an average day?

  3. PsychicMonkey

    silly me

    I thought the meat bag sitting at the desk looked at my ticket, passport and face, then using there highly evolved facial recognition bio-ware to do this job.

    Maybe the computer is cheaper...

  4. JohnG

    Separate national and international lounges

    " help prevent an instance where an international passenger swaps tickets with a domestic passenger in the department lounge."

    There should be separate departure lounges for national and international flights or you will also have the problem of people being handed other forms of ID (e.g. a residency permit for an EU country) when they are only in the departure lounge with a Transit Visa.

    Anecdotally, I was on a flight from Kiev to Frankfurt which was stopped by immigration officials in a quiet part of Frankfurt Airport, instead of a the planned gate. The immigration officials then started checking passports and visas on the aircraft and promptly found a whole load of people without the correct documentation. I guess they had received a tip off.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      And how much extra are you prepared to pay for these extra lounges of which you speak? Particularly in a small airport with only one terminal, you'd effectively have to double all of the facilities available, ie: Make a second terminal. It's going to cost, a lot.

  5. Anonymous Coward


    "In line with UKBA requirements, we are introducing technology that will enable us to more accurately reconcile images of passengers flying domestically."

    What the hell does domestic flight have to do with the UKBA, fuck big brother!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      At a guess

      The UKBA have a very heavy presence at all ports, therefore in airports that are shared domestic/international they're going to have a fairly legitimate reason to require certain minimum levels of security for the domestic operation of the airport.

      There is no point having massive security in your international operation if people can gain access to the same facilities by just rocking up with no ID, whenever they fancy.

    2. Jim Morrow

      baa & ukba - just fuck right off

      > What the hell does domestic flight have to do with the UKBA

      fuck all.

      it's all to do with the greed and cynicism of the bastards who run heathrow, baa. at t1 and t5, domestic and international passengers are not separated. so there's a risk of someone getting off an international flight switching to a domestic one without going through immigration. this suits baa because it means they can spend more money on shops instead of operating an airport properly. ie keep passengers apart who are meant to be kept apart.

      baa already have goons at t5 who photograph domestic passengers and check these photos at again the gate when you get on a domestic flight. so what the fuck these face recognition systems will do an better is a fucking mystery.

      don't forget that when t5 opened, those fuckers at baa wanted to *fingerprint* everyone. they backed off when everyone told them to fuck off. now I guess the twats behind that fiasco now want to have another go at bar-coding and dna sampling anyone passing through their glorified shopping mall. fuck 'em: use schiphol.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The cost of someone else's bad design: Your privacy.

    The problem here is that they're mixing "domestic" and "international" flavours of passengers, to curry favour with the concession holders looking to sell overpriced gibgab to both kinds of passengers. So now they've beefed up their unmixing tech some more, at the small price of putting every passenger in yet another database for later comparison.

    And these facial recognition things worked so well it was a riot, per an earlier review of passport-linked facial recognition things already deployed at various airports.

    Since they won't listen to anything else: Stop traveling through heathrow. At all. Or if you must, don't buy anything. Though the sneaky buggers have foreseen this and already thwarted your feeble attempts at protest, silly consumer, ha ha. That's the real reason for the liquid bans.</tin foil hat> But anyway. It's that or write your local MP. A "buy nothing at heathrow" anonyflashmob will probably be easier to effect.

    1. Nigel 11

      You're already in that database to be flying.

      Your face is almost certainly stored permanently in a government-accessible database already. Your passport photograph, mandatory, if you ever travel international. Your driving license, probably, if not. Or your employer's photo-ID. Or your travelcard/pass (they've got all the OAPs this way). Or your benefit claim. I doubt there's one in fifty of us that they haven't yet snapped. That battle is lost (if it was ever fought at all).

      In this case I'm inclined to believe that there is a real threat, and that computer face-recognition is faster and more reliable than a manual process (which would entail printing your photo onto your boarding pass at check-in).

      Tech note: the computer is matching into a limited set, one plane-load of passengers to be allowed to board. That's a far easier task than the one for which a human brain is optimized, viz. "do I know this person?". We're not actually very good at matching unknown faces to photographs of strangers, a task which evolution never selected for, let alone at doing it fast.

      1. Vic

        Re: in that database

        > Your driving license, probably, if not.

        My driving licence doesn't have a photo on it.

        Sometimes, it's good to be an Old Fart :-)


        1. Nigel 11
          Thumb Down

          I know, no photo on my driving license either, but

          Have you *never* been photographed by officialdom? Never held a passport? Never worked for an employer requiring photo-ID? Have you passed up your opportunity for a free bus pass (or intend to do so if you're not that old a fart yet?) And are you never going to move house (which will render your old driving license illegal, and require you to get one with a photo).

          If so, congratulations! (though I'm not sure for what).

          By the way, that driving license will expire when you reach 70.

        2. asiaseen

          Wait till you are 70

          They'll get you then.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Already lost no reason not to fight.

        Back a couple years back, lower-fare-cards consisted of a bit of laminated paper (a bit wider but less high than a credit card) with a photograph plus a bit of paper proving you'd paid this year. Then they changed it to a yearly issue of a credit card-sized card... without photograph. Apparently matching the hundreds of thousands of holders to their card by face just wasn't important to them?

        Some half a decade later they'd "upgraded" again to the same card but now with photograph and also the RFID chip that's supposed to replace all PT fare cards in all of the Netherlands; oyster card like, but so broken they're "naturally" having to keep ever bigger databases for ever longer to datamine for fraud. Instead of, say, upgrading the chip like the oystercard chip was. There's much more blatant nationwide incompetence where that came from, but I digress.

        The point is, apparently photographs aren't all that important. So what are they taken for then, anyway? My complaint is probably that nobody in charge is thinking about issues like that other than "how do we sell ever more privacy intrusion to the public, and making them like it too?" and nobody really has a clear idea of what's necessary and what can be done without.

        Another tech note: Matching passengers to plane seats isn't really what airport security is for. If people want to randomly swap, why, well, why not? Much like how in the US you could board internal flights without a passport at all right up until a concerted effort to fly planes into buildings succeeded. The mere fact that the latter hasn't happened again is no proof that changing the former --or any of the other knee-jerk measures-- has had any preventive effect.

        What airport security ought to be doing is to look for bad apples, not as a result of long lists of named badness, but to look for nervousness and possible bad intentions. That's what the Israelis do very well; the bag scanning and all the rest is more of a side show for them. It's also something that a competent and experienced border guard can be very good at. You wouldn't know it for we've seen very few of those in the last decade.

        Grasping that it's about humans, not about technology, the rest of the world mostly fails to. That is including INTERPOL, and the US most of all because ignoring that people are human lets them play with more and newer electronic toys. At the cheap, cheap price of treating travelers inhumanely, even if only for a few minutes for most of us.

        It really isn't the privacy alone, though that's an important symptom. It's that travelers being treated badly is supposed to convince everyone that the security is not so obviously completely fake.

  7. Trollslayer

    Yeah right

    They'll be slightly less wrong that the others.

    not that a smart terrorist would be bothered by them, fortunately most of them are stupid.

    1. OffBeatMammal
      Big Brother

      but, but, terrorists are stupid right?

      one thing I've noticed here in the US is that the TSA *do* think that terrorists are stupid and so their security measures are implemented accordingly []

      If a decent biometric system that had use domestically and internationally was in place to genuinely streamline travel then I wouldn't object too much, but what is insane is this half hearted knee jerk measures that don't integrate and don't actually add much in the way of protection from real threats

      Maybe Rockwell was right - :)

  8. duvin


    "[...]swaps tickets with a domestic passenger in the department lounge."

    They have department lounges now? Are they any better than the lounges they had previously?

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    ...They could print your passport number on the boarding pass.

    1. Velv
      Big Brother


      The swapping tickets issue is a smokescreen for something else.

      Every flight I've been on they check your photo ID and boarding pass at the gate, so passengers swapping tickets would need to have the same name.

      This is about developing the technology in a controlled laboratory on a gullible public

  10. John Smith 19 Gold badge

    But this time they *will* tell the difference between Demi Moore and Osama bin Laden

    That's a promise.

    1. Paul Crawford Silver badge

      @Demi Moore

      But which part of Demi Moore will they be scanning?

  11. David Grimiore

    Swapping Tickets

    'is to help prevent an instance where an international passenger swaps tickets with a domestic passenger in the department lounge.'

    And this happens how often?

    1. Throatwobbler Mangrove

      and also...

      ...when it does happen, what exactly is the security risk? They've both been through security screening anyway, haven't they?

      Apologies in advance if I'm being particularly dense here...

  12. Ralthor

    Investment opportunity

    I am buying shares in a facemask company. It will boom big I tell ya!

  13. Ru

    Yay biometrics

    Went through Faro airport a couple of weeks back; they had automated facial recognition gates for anyone with a suitable en-rfidded passport. Only they were some of the worst systems anyone could have devised.

    You stick your passport into the reader, which more often than not fails to read anything at all, despite rfid passport readers being widely used and reasonably reliable these days. Then a little gate opens letting you into the camera chamber. The gate closes behind you. The camera is supposed to either accept or reject you, and the appropriate gate opens to let you back out or through.

    For both me and my other half, the system simply locked up, with both gates closed and necessitated *climbing back out* as there were no human attendants there to keep an eye on things. Awesome stuff.

    Travellers into Gatwick might remember their iris scanner system for which you had to enroll on your outward flight... only they were often used by people who didn't realise this, and tried to go through them on their return without enrolling, and were locked in the scanning chambers holding up everyone else til some security staff turned up. I avoided that one like the plague, though.

    1. Fred Flintstone Gold badge

      No, Heathrow's RFID systems have another flaw..

      .. some *idiot* designed them so that every time someone new logs on (i.e. when a shift changes) the whole shooting match must reboot from the ground up - and that takes a good 10..15 minutes. You don't need to be a rocket scientist to make a well educated guess of which Operating System they must be using..

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward


        Of the OSes I know that take more than about 5mins to reboot (if that) they are:

        iOS (formerly OS400)


        Solaris (on big boxes)

        AIX (on big boxes)

        HP-UX (on big boxes)

        I don't know about Windows datacentre on big boxes, it may well take a long time to boot.

        Now I assume you're saying they run some sort of Windows, but no Windows that I know of takes that long to boot - hell, even the old NT4 box with 20 tape drives a massive disk array and associated tape robotics took about ten minutes to boot.

        It's the software, not the OS, if it takes that long to boot.

        1. Intractable Potsherd

          The point is ...

          ... there should be no need to reboot. Let's face it, most other systems manage to deal with shift-changes without starting from scratch.

    2. Intractable Potsherd

      The Faro system hasn't improved ...

      ...since 2007, then. I had to help a young lady to get out of the sheep-press because of that same failing - she was very grateful, but my wife soon put a dampener on that :(

  14. SynicNZ

    Used it to enter NZ last Nov

    Skipped all the queues.

    Came back and did the retina scan here - skipped those queues also.

    The main issue is the mixing of domestic and 'foreign' travelers. It hasn't worked in the US ever - so why introduce it here. Oh that's right its about the airlines - not security.

  15. Anonymous Coward

    How long?

    4.7 seconds to check a person against a single photo (or at worst everyone they think should still be in the terminal)?!! That's a ****ing eternity!

    Take a Boeing 747-400 with 3 classes of travel. That's 416 seats. Call it 400 to be charitable. Assuming 2 lines at the gate, each queue will be delayed by 200 x 4.7 seconds = 15m40s! Most planes are smaller than a 747 or not full so let's say every gate at Terminal 5 needs to be open for on average 10 minutes longer for each flight. How many more staff is that we'll end up having to pay higher ticket prices to fund?

    These timings assume everyone is who they say they are and the system gets it right every time. How much longer than 4.7 seconds will it be if the system gets it wrong and says the guy up the front isn't the one that checked in and the dumb muppet pressing the button always believes it. "Computer says no..." Queue men in body armour carrying guns...

    1. Nigel 11

      Straw man argument

      It takes a heck of a lot longer than 4.7 seconds to get each passenger into their seat on the plane. Even allowing for some parallelism, it's pretty optimistic. Last flight I was on (an A320), boarding took over half an hour, and the bottleneck was in the plane.

      1. Intractable Potsherd

        Now think about ...

        ... the Airbus 380! Lots more passengers, and unless there is a dramatic improvement in the loading protocols than last year (I flew on one of the special flights to Paris and back when AirFrance got their's last year) it is going to take hours.

  16. Graham Bartlett

    Smith and Jones got there first

    ISTR a sketch where a passport officer (Jones) looks at the passport, looks back, and says "is this your passport, sir?" Camera pans back to Mel Smith, who's wearing a deer's head (complete with 3-foot horns).

    "That picture was before I grew a beard."

    "Oh, OK - through you go..."

  17. Cameron Colley

    I don't understand the problem they're trying to solve.

    Are they saying that it's now fine to get on a domestic flight if you have no photo ID or are on a terrorist watch list? If not, then I fail to understand the problem they're trying to solve.

    If someone booked onto a domestic flight were to end up on an international one than the worst that would happen is they'd be stopped at passport control at the other end -- since the UK isn't in Schengen or any other similar arrangements. OK, so it _might_ cost airlines a few quid per year ferrying back people who are organised enough to arrange for someone who looks like them, or has a similar name, to meet them in the lounge and trade tickets -- but surely anyone that organised would also realise that there was no way to get into their target country?

    If I'm missing something, please enlighten me as I am genuinely puzzled and not being sarcastic.

    1. davenewman

      This is the unlikely problem they are trying to solve

      Someone in transit between international flights at Heathrow, without a UK visa, changes tickets with someone booked on a domestic flight. They he flies somewhere like Belfast, where he won't be checked by immigration (just a policeman looking for local terrorists/informers). After that he takes a train to Dublin, where he gets a job in a bank and brings down the Euro.

      1. Cameron Colley

        Thanks davenewman.

        That makes sense -- though, as you say, it's still a little unlikely sounding. I hadn't realised from the article that it's the Domestic ticket that's the "hot" one.

  18. EUbrainwashing

    Revolution NOW! (or after lunch anyway)

    If you submit to everything an authoritarian police state would pragmatically require, because you believe your country is not a police state, then what is there to stop a police state being formed once all the mechanisms are in place?

    What assures us the formation of an authoritarian police state can be resisted is when none of the mechanisms it would require are allowed to be put in place. That is the real reason for freedom and privacy.

    We can be sure these images will be stored and will be used to roll-out the system in other situations, such a railway stations, roadside cameras, protest meetings. Starting to understand?

    Will the tax-man knock at your door and ask why you travel to the City of London so frequently. After making a supposedly 'full' statement of income, a friend had the tax-man ask him where he had got the money to recently buy a new canal-boat - information the tax-man took from public records.

    These systems, purportedly to defend against crime and terrrrrorism, will be turned inwards. And taxation is the tough nut to crack. If tax was 3% so many people would pay it it would hardly need enforcement. At 30% it gets tougher, 60% many will wriggle. There is a equation, a tipping point, between level of tax and ability to enforce collection. Tax will only rise proportionally to the effectiveness of the system of collection and prevention of evasion.

    Since our governments are digging US ALL deeper and deeper into a dark hole of debt and public expense so vast the majority will not see it repaid in our lives don't you think it is likely the government would like to tax at the absolute maximum economically and technically possible? At the moment all they can think of doing is to keep digging: harder, faster, deeper.

    Civil liberties stand as a defence from whatever future holds. To assure an enduringly free society the balance must always be; government must trust people and not demand legislation that requires the people to trust government.

    Say NO to the mechanisms of the police state. Say NO to the state that can only perpetuate itself through force. Say NO to the repayment of loans from the few international bankers who own and control more than half the worlds capital.

    1. Cameron Colley

      One problem EUbrainwashing.

      We can't say "no" because we're never asked. You can't even vote for a non-big three party in this country without effectively flushing it down the toilet.

      1. EUbrainwashing

        ‘All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing’

        When revolution happens it will not be fires in the street and mobs screaming. That is old hat and changes nothing. It will happen as a random effect of a sufficient number of people drawing their own conclusion that 'they are not going to take it any more'. There is only one purpose of the state and that is to funnel money (or what money represents) away from the people and into the hands and pockets of others. All the schools, roads, hospital and such stuff is modern 'bread and circuses' (panem et circenses) to make the people think the edifice is for the benefit people. It blatantly is not.

        There is only one place to hit the state and that is right smack-bang in the financial gonzoolers. Tax protest. Nobody wants to go to jail and nobody wants their property taken away but a great deal is possible within the law too. OK PAYE folk have some limited scope but the time will arise when employers will find the best staff demand a flexible approach - self-employed contracts and such.

        As more and more people break from their absorption in the paradigm, as I have over the last 10 years, and start to see this conclusion it will progressively unwind. But as it starts to unwind so the authoritarian mechanisms of the state will attempt to encircle liberated people using their new (and old) force and control mechanisms. That is a good reason to make efforts now to protest these developments.

        As it happens often those responsible for the implementation of this stuff are not think they are implementing authoritarian controls and will listen to sound reasoning.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      A test

      Here is a test to find out if you're living in a police state and haven't recognised it.

      Find someone from an East European Police State from the 60s/70s/80s and ask them. If they fall about laughing - you're not in a police state.

      Short answer: If you go out at night and aren't afraid, scratch that, if you go out at night at all, you're not in a police state.

      Get a perspective.

      1. Intractable Potsherd

        @AC - I'm sorry ...

        ... you are talking bollocks. For reasons I have no intentions of going in to, I know a lot of people who lived in East European Police States. To a person, they cannot see why we are allowing ourselves to slip into ways that they were so active in getting rid of.

        Now get back under the bridge from which you terrorise triads of goats.

      2. EUbrainwashing

        First they came for .....

        If you read my comment correctly you would note that I am not saying a 'police state' is here now. I use the term by way of shorthand, for we will not know how it manifests or its name until until it manifests and is recognised.

        My point is that tool of authoritarianism have be put in place over the last ten to twenty years and that the best means of defence against the occurrence of authoritarianism is to refuse to accept such changes. But they get sold to a gullible public as necessary in a 'trustworthy' state under a supposed series of threats.

        And to think a future authoritarian state will look or act in the same way as the old soviet states is rather unimaginative. However I think if you were poor and black living in a poverty-struck region of the USA you would find the police very Nazi like in their character even today.

        No. The new Nazis will not be marching about in silly boots. More likely they will be living in a country where the government imprison without trial, arrest without charges, tolerate or conduct torture, wage war on a tissue of lies and such.

  19. Sillyfellow


    oh, the trials they have run. which means that they've been using it already on the general public, most likely. that would explain why me and my family, a couple of months ago at Heathrow, were each given cards at one end of a corridor, and had to hand them back at the other end of the corridor. we weren't told anything about being included in these trials, but i'll bet that is exactly what it was all about. would make no sense otherwise. and i think we should've been clearly informed.

  20. Mips

    I see you

    Your a frequent flyer, right?

  21. Equitas
    Paris Hilton

    I see.......

    So we're now going to be faced with having the whole setup controlled by burqa-clad women in order that other burqa-clad women comply with their religion?

    Last time I came through immigration at Heathrow I jumped into another queue because the one I was in was moving exceedingly slowly. When I came nearer to the front of the fast-moving queue I could see that the immigration officer (or what I assume must have been an immigration officer) was clad in a burqa -- only her (or I assume it was a "she") eyes were visible.

    Something's seriously wrong here.

    Paris, because whatever her failings, she doesn't wear a burqa

    1. Hollerith 1

      I am not seeing your point...

      What has wearing a burqa got to do with doing a job?

      As a woman, I find the wearing of burqas offensive and revolting: it's a development of a culture, poorly supported by religious writings and teachings, that helps eye-watering hatred of women to be sustained under the rubric of religious obedience.

      That aside, our society tolerates the wearing of all sorts of religious clothing: Sikh turbans, yarmulkas, crosses, nuns' habits, priests' cassocks, etc. If these are OK and don't interfere with the job, then I don't find any reason to object to a burqa is someone else can wear a big crucifix around his or her neck.

      1. Equitas

        Face recognition isn't likely to work ...........

        with individuals who wear a burqa. So either Muslim women are going to have to be exempt from the requirement, or the head-covering is going to have to be removed -- in which case there will be an insistence that only Muslim women can be employed in the area in which the said head-covering is removed.

        And as for the comments of Hollerith 1 with regard to religious clothing interfering with a job, I object strongly to a female immigration officer, not in an appropriate uniform and with a covered face, examining my face to determine whether she is going to let me into the country.

        This amounts to discrimination against non-Muslims.

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