Facial recognition technology now in place at airport

The Lynden Pindling International Airport. (File photo)

The Lynden Pindling International Airport. (File photo)



STATE-of-the-art facial recognition comparison technology is now available at Lynden Pindling International Airport to ensure a more secure and safe travel experience.

Prior to this new technology, the US pre-clearance facility at LPIA used fingerprints to validate the identity of travellers to the United States. The facial recognition technology will replace that.

Jeff Mara, area port director at US Customs and Border Protection, yesterday explained how the technology works.

“We made some upgrades in preparation for a hopeful return to travel. The most noted upgrade we made was the implementation of our biometric technology known as simplified arrival in December. Simplified arrival uses the state-of-the-art facial recognition comparison technology and creates a more safe secure and seamless travel experience. And, that’s because it’s a hands-free process.

“When you arrive or depart from LPIA or another airport in the United States, passengers stop briefly for a brief photo. Within seconds, based on our technology going to work to ensure that the documents you provided previously, whether it be a passport or a visa, that photo matches up. What happens then is that the officer will validate the results, ask you some questions about your travel and then determine your admissibility to the United States.”

This new system for travel works in favour of those travelling to the United States in the era of COVID-19 as it gives the opportunity not to touch many items.

Mr Mara said, “The traveller does not have to touch as many things throughout the process, but again the use of the technology allows for less introduction of germs throughout processing through our area. In addition to what we did with simplified arrival we’ve also worked hard with our partners at Nassau Airport Development to add some other safety mechanisms throughout the process.

“Certainly there’s social distance markings throughout the facility to assure that we adhere to the CDC and local regulations as it pertains to social distancing. Of course there is the mask mandate for travelling through the airport. And, we also utilise plexiglass barriers at each step of the process for the safety of our officers and the safety of the travelling public. We are ready and our technologies are available, have been in use.”

Mr Mara said that travelling to the US on a police record is still allowed and added that it will not change any time soon.

He continued, “Again we just want to remind you that the document requirements for travel by Bahamian citizens to the United States have not changed. What you need to travel to the United States is a valid unexpired passport. For those who are 14 years or older, the police certificate indicating a lack of criminality. There is always a lot of supposition that that visa-free travel element between the United States and The Bahamas has been taken away.

“There are no plans at this time to remove the visa-free travel. The documentation requirements remain the same and we look forward to seeing you at LPIA. If there are any changes to our document requirements or to the process there will be a statement on it, whether it comes from US Customs and Border Protection or our embassy partners, the Public Affairs Office section.”

The United States has had a pre-clearance agreement with The Bahamas since 1974.

During the pandemic, the CBP has remained a constant presence at LPIA. Proud of this, Mr Mara said even though things were slow, CBP was always there.

“We are proud here at US Customs Border Protection that we’ve actually remained opened and operational throughout the pandemic while there have been some days when the flights were relatively low or slow, but we continued to maintain the operations and the inspectional duties here in Nassau,” he said.

Mr Mara also said Bahamians should remember the CBP operation at Freeport’s international airport is suspended at this time because of the unfortunate destruction of the facility by Hurricane Dorian. He said officials await the facility to be built to CBP standards so that the work can be continued.


proudloudandfnm 3 years, 3 months ago

Whoa! Don't like this idea at all. American paranoia in full swing. All kinds of new files on Bahamian citizens bout to be open up....

Freedom in the USA is getting more and more obtrusive... Spy on your own damned people. Leave my people alone...

Dawes 3 years, 3 months ago

Then don't travel to the US.

proudloudandfnm 3 years, 3 months ago

I don't. Haven't been in that country now for going on 5 years and no plans to go ever again. Much prefer Canada, the UK and Europe, all are superior experince. Anything I need from the US can be bought online...

Dawes 3 years, 3 months ago

Then why do you care? IF you don't go it won't affect you?

proudloudandfnm 3 years, 3 months ago

Another country spying on our citizens doesn't concern you? What's wrong with you pray tell?

Dawes 3 years, 3 months ago

You mean our citizens who want to travel to their country. By all means get rid of pre-clearance and then they would have to do it over in the US. But the only reason it is done is because that person wants to enter the US. You need to put your tin foil hat back on.

Bonefishpete 3 years, 3 months ago

Help me remember. In the old days the Immigration officer would take one's passport, open it up and look at the picture. Then he would look at You. Guess that was too intrusive.

FrustratedBusinessman 3 years, 3 months ago

Do tell where is this information is stored?

proudloudandfnm 3 years, 3 months ago

I'm guessing FBI, CIA and the NSA...

ScullyUFO 3 years, 3 months ago

In modern passports the information is on a chip in the passport. The image captured at the interview station is compared to the information in the passport.

This is not new technology. It has been used in many airports around the world for many years. There are numerous much larger airports where this information is captured while you are actually on the move.

As far as invasion of privacy goes, it is no more invasive than what current/previous laws allow. Whenever your passport is scanned, a record of that is retained somewhere. It was ever thus. That's why the international standard for passports now requires both bar codes and OCR text.

tribanon 3 years, 3 months ago

Governments around the world have leveraged the COVID-19 pandemic to take away or waterdown many of the civil rights and liberties of their citizenry, with privacy rights, especially medical privacy rights, being chief among them.

proudloudandfnm 3 years, 3 months ago

Yeah cept this has nothing to do with the pandemic. This is paranoia due to American meddling in other countries...

milesair 3 years, 3 months ago

Paranoia strikes deep, always be afraid, be very afraid and blame somebody or something else for your paranoia!

alleycat 3 years, 3 months ago

I flew from Nassau to US in 2017. They had photo machines there then, and wouldn’t let me go until it took my photo. It took about ten minutes and help from staff to make it work. This is not something new. (The fingerprint machine didn’t work either.)

Also, it will mean taking your mask off. So then you’ll be breathing the germs of the last ten people to have their photo taken.

bogart 3 years, 3 months ago

Facial recognition seems to only now being done electronically at the airport when local financial institutions and others have being doing it for almost a year and even before that. Customers have been asked prior to Pandemic in many places to remove their dark sunshades, remove caps, hoodies on jackets for security cameras to have clear facial features. Stores, offices almost all commercial places have electronic doors and camera system to 'approve' of you as security risk before they buzz the door to let you in.

Local bank will have customers remove your mask at the entrance and look at the security camera and put back on your mask. Looking forward at upcoming National Elections it seems quite likeky that the Elections Officials at the Polling stations seems likely to compare your photo and having masks removed, to compare and then to look at the number on their list and give corresponding document to make selection in booth. Hopefully, these voting documents stores under some new elected govt office is destroyed quickly and not used for any other untold purpose.

Proguing 3 years, 3 months ago

Just as predicted by George Orwell in 1949

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