US authorities are testing biometric systems that could identify travellers without them removing facemasks.
Arun Vemury, director of the US Department of Homeland Security’s biometric and identity technology centre, said tests would take place “in the coming weeks”.
“We are planning a large scale test,” he told the World Aviation Festival. “We’re looking at the specific question of face masks.”
“We’re going to run a test to see how well photos can be taken and how well the algorithm can match. There is a likelihood we will be able to verify some people’s identities without them needing to remove masks.”
There were issues with different types of face coverings, he said, but the aim was to reduce the number of ‘touch points’ at airports and decrease the risk to staff.
Vemury said he hoped governments would work towards harmonisation of biometric standards but played down the idea of immunity passports.
“There are questions about how you tie the test result back to the person. How do you know I’m the one on that piece of paper? We should assume there’s a potential risk of fraud if there’s a financial benefit, like going to work.”
Vemury said the US was also looking at contactless fingerprint systems and other ‘no touch’ technology.