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Monday
Apr062009

Manchester Airport Downgrades Matching Threshold on Facial Scanners


Those customer complaints about excessive wait times and congestion going through security in the UK must be piling up these days -- in a leaked memo, Manchester Airport allegedly re-calibrated its facial scanner machines from alerting security personnel if the passenger had less than a 80% likeness to their passport photograph to only calling out matches at less than 30%.

Deemed an "unacceptable" security risk by some, this change was prompted by an increased number of "false positives" not recognizing law-abiding passengers as the person pictured in their passport.

There has been no official explanation as to why the change occurred, and some facial recognition experts are up in arms, claiming that using a 30% match threshold is essentially useless. A memo noted, "[The fact that] the machines do not operate at 100% is unacceptable. In addition it would be interesting to know why the acceptance level has been allowed to decrease."

As another article also describes, with such low calibration levels, Kevin Spacey and Winona Ryder would easily pass through holding Osama Bin Laden's passport. With these odds, I bet could pass through security as Colin Firth, no problem.

I'll be interested to see if an official response to this "leaked memo" is released that explains the drastic drop in standards and their reason for the large number of false-positives. It could be the result of their technology choice, or just the result of poor, old, and varied photos common to passports. Likely both.

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