UN aviation agency adopts biometric identification to improve travel clearance

29 May 2003

The United Nations civil aviation agency has adopted a global, harmonized blueprint for using advanced computerized recognition techniques to identify people by biological features unique to each individual.

Biometric-enhanced passports and other machine readable travel documents (MRTDs) will enable rapid comparison, either one-to-one with the person and document, or one-to-many using a database to positively identify an individual, the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) said.

According to ICAO, the added technology will mean travellers can more speedily go through airport controls. It will also increase aviation security as well as enable authorities to detect those travelling under stolen passports. In addition, the blueprint will assist its 188 Member States to implement a worldwide, standardized system of identity confirmation.

“I encourage all Member States to cooperate fully in the implementation of this global identification framework that can significantly enhance public confidence in air travel security, encourage people to fly in greater numbers, and expedite the flow of passengers through airports,” said the President of the ICAO Council, Assad Kotaite.

ICAO said countries would have the option of using one or two secondary biometrics to supplement facial recognition for personal identification. In a comprehensive analysis of various available biometrics, the face rated highest in terms of compatibility with key operational considerations, followed by fingers and eyes.

Border control authorities and airline staff at airports have long used the face to confirm identity with a document photo. Facial recognition technology automates this process, using a camera to capture the image of the face, while a computer validates facial characteristics.

ICAO has led the development of biometric-enhanced MRTDs since 1997, in close collaboration with the air transport industry and the International Organization for Standardization (ISO).


♦ Receive daily updates directly in your inbox - Subscribe here to a topic.
♦ Download the UN News app for your iOS or Android devices.