Page last updated at 11:29 GMT, Monday, 23 November 2009

Face scanners launched at airport

Face scanning technology
The technology scans faces and compares them to digital photographs

Face scanning technology brought in at Gatwick Airport will speed up passport checks, the government has said.

Home secretary Alan Johnson officially launched the face scanners at the airport in West Sussex on Monday.

He said the self-service technology used by passengers would allow UK Border Agency officers to focus on other high risk travellers and goods.

Shadow immigration minister Damian Green said the government was relying too much on technology.

He said: "The danger is that too many people go through automatic processes.

"It's often the intuition of an experienced immigration officer or experienced customs officer that can spot some unusual patterns of behaviour or someone looking uneasy."

But Home Secretary Alan Johnson said: "Facial recognition technology speeds up the passage of legitimate travellers through immigration control, allowing UK Border Agency officers to focus on high risk travellers and goods.

Shadow immigration minister Damian Green said human intuition could be safer

"Our investment in the latest technology, which I have seen here today at Gatwick, means we continue to be at the forefront of border security."

Andy Flower, managing director for London Gatwick Airport, said the system would provide a more efficient process for passengers.

The gates have been in operation at the airport since August and have been used by more than 50,000 passengers, but were officially launched on Monday.

Passengers can choose to queue at traditional, staffed passport controls or use the self-service gates.

The technology scans passengers' faces and compares them to photographs digitally stored on their passports.

UK Border Agency officers check any people who are rejected.

The scanners are already being used at Birmingham, Manchester, Stansted, Cardiff and Bristol airports.

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