Page last updated at 10:35 GMT, Friday, 25 April 2008 11:35 UK

Airports trial facial recognition

An eye being scanned
Biometric testing will scan people's faces for recognition

Airports are to introduce a trial of automated facial-recognition technology, the government has said.

The trial will begin during the summer in an attempt to improve security and reduce passenger congestion.

Holders of new UK and EU biometric passports will pass through unmanned gates that will scan their faces and match them to records.

The Home Office said that the pilot scheme would be extended to all major UK airports, if successful.

Border security officials believe that the new technology will be more effective at passport screening, and preventing identity fraud.

Biometric technology uses computerised methods to identify a person by their unique physical or behavioural characteristics.

'False negatives'

It is thought the new scanners will err on the side of caution, to make sure no-one wanted by police or other security agencies slips through.

Eye scan

As a result, they could produce a small number of "false negatives" - innocent travellers rejected because the machine cannot match their face to the records.

These rejected passengers would then be redirected to passport officers for further checks.

Liam Byrne, the Home Office minister for immigration, said passengers would not want to wait longer to pass through security.

He said: "Tougher checks do take time, but we don't want long waits, so the UK Border Agency will soon be testing automatic gates for British citizens.

"We will test them this year, and if they work put them at all key ports."

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