See Dulles airport’s new facial recognition system in action

WASHINGTON — At a boarding gate for a Scandinavian Airlines flight to Copenhagen, passengers step in front of an iPad and pause as their pictures are taken. If a green check appears, they can board. If the screen shows a red “X” they must have their photo taken again, or go through further screening.

Dulles airport is using new facial recognition technology to make sure passengers on international flights are really who they claim to be.

“Facial recognition technology is a tremendous step forward in protecting our nation from a variety of security risks,” said U.S. Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Kevin McAleenan.

For international travelers, the system checks their photo upon exit against not only their passport photo but also the photo taken of them when they entered the country. For Americans, the system checks their image against their passport photo and other government-issued identification.

After the scan, the photo taken is then deleted.

Passengers at Dulles International Airport use the new facial recognition software. (Credit Mike Murillo/WTOP)
Passengers at Dulles International Airport use the new facial recognition software. (WTOP/Mike Murillo)

McAleenan said implementing the system is the answer to a Congressional mandate for the agency to capture biometric information on travelers exiting the country.

He believes using the system will provide more efficient and effective screening for the United States, which welcomes more than 350,000 international air travelers daily into the county.

“We believe it will change the face of international travel both in the boarding process and in the speed and security of international arrivals,” McAleenan said.

Those who support the program want to see the system further developed in a way that allows it to make paper and mobile boarding passes obsolete.

“Our goal is to have this biometric scan, not only be a tool used to identify you and authenticate your identity, but to also act as your board process,” said Jack Potter, president of the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority.

Mike Murillo

Mike Murillo is a reporter and anchor at WTOP. Before joining WTOP in 2013, he worked in radio in Orlando, New York City and Philadelphia.

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