Dubai International Airport introduces iris scanners to avoid passports

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Emirates passengers can now clear customs at Dubai International Airport, the world’s busiest airport for international passenger traffic, in seconds by looking at an iris scanner that verifies their identity and eliminates the need any human interaction or even touching when entering or leaving UAE airport.

Despite 69 border destinations still closed to tourists (30 in Asia-Pacific, 15 in Europe, 11 in Africa, 10 in the Americas and three in the Middle East) to avoid an acceleration of COVID-19, Emirates now flies to 100 destinations around the world. It serves Seattle, Boston, Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, Washington DC with flights to San Francisco and Dallas added on March 2.

Seychelles has officially reopened its borders to all tourists, requiring only proof of a negative test before arrival. From March 27, Air Seychelles will launch a regular weekly service between Dubai World Central Airport and Mahé, while from March 28, Emirates will offer seven weekly flights to Mahé. Emirates will also increase its weekly flights, from 24 to 28, to the Maldives from March 28. All flights to Mahé and Malé will require passengers to present a negative COVID-19 PCR test result, carried out within 96 hours before departure for the Maldives and within 72 hours before departure for the Seychelles.

Meanwhile, Air New Zealand will be the first airline to test the International Air Transport Association (IATA) Travel Pass app on its Auckland-Sydney, Australia flights for three weeks in April. The app will give passengers information about the tests and vaccines they need to get into their destination and it will also be able to receive verified test results or vaccination certificates directly from participating healthcare providers.

Airports and airlines around the world are trying to minimize human contact as much as possible. Contactless iris scanning technology introduced at Dubai International Airport, which allows passengers to go through customs without having to have their passports checked and stamped, has renewed questions about mass surveillance in the UAE , which experts say are among the highest per capita concentrations. surveillance cameras around the world, AP News reported.

The scanner, made possible through a partnership between Emirates, owned by a Dubai sovereign wealth fund, and the Dubai Immigration Office, connects iris data to the country’s facial recognition databases.

“The future is coming,” said Major General Obaid Mehayer Bin Suroor, deputy director of the Residence and Foreign Affairs Branch. “Now all the procedures have gotten ‘smart’, about five to six seconds.”

Emirates’ biometric privacy statement says the airline links passenger faces to other personally identifiable information, including passport and flight information, retaining it “for as long as is reasonably necessary for the purposes. for which they were collected “.

The agreement provides few details on how the data will be used and stored beyond stating that even if the company does not make copies of passengers’ faces, other personal data “may be processed in others. Emirates systems “.

Bin Suroor pointed out that the Dubai Immigration Office “completely protects” the personal data of passengers so that “no third party can see it”. But without more specific information on how and what data will be used or stored, biometric technology raises the possibility of misuse.

“Any kind of surveillance technology sets off red flags no matter what type of country it is in,” said Jonathan Frankle, a doctoral student in artificial intelligence at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. AP News. “But in a democratic country, if surveillance technology is used transparently, there is at least an opportunity to have a public conversation about it.”


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