Have you heard about the new biometric ‘e passports?’

In Portugal’s Algarve region, in the south, fliers have been using biometric ePassports to move through the airport quickly. Holders of the British biometric ePassport have been making use of a scanning facility at Faro airport in Portugal which offers speedy passage through the hub.

The system, known as Rapid, requires holders to place their ePassport before a reader and stand on a spot for their face to be scanned, a process that takes around 20 seconds.

Facial recognition technology compares the traveller’s features to a facial biometric, stored on a secure chip in the ePassport, effectively carrying out the same job as an immigration officer.

Since the initiative began last year some eight million ePassports have been issued to British citizens. As well as offering quicker passage through airports, the passports are also harder to forge, with more complex page designs and watermarks.

Speaking at the Biometrics 2007 exhibition in London, home office minister Meg Hillier said: “The system in place at Faro is a sign of things to come, as countries all around the world adopt biometric technology to strengthen border controls and the security of their travel documents.” The system will be offered at all of Portugal’s airports by the end of the year.

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