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Eurostar Testing New Facial Recognition on London Train Passengers

Originally founded in 1999, Eurostar provides an international high-speed rail service between the United Kingdom, Belgium, France, and the Netherlands. Generally considered to be an affordable, efficient, and convenient means of travel, Eurostar is the subject of recent controversy after announcing facial recognition tests at London’s St. Pancras International.

A Highly Controversial Move

The pilot program is currently in place within the station’s SmartCheck lane, which gives passengers the option of boarding without undergoing the typical ID verification process. In lieu of paper ID verification, however, passengers are now subject to two separate facial scans. The first occurs at the ticket gate and the second occurs at the UK Exit Checkpoint.

Eurostar issued a recent press release that provided even more insight into the new program: “SmartCheck enables passengers to complete secure ticket verification and UK exit check on their mobile devices prior to travel. As part of the trial, Business Premier and Carte Blanche ticket holders will be able to scan their identity documentation using their iPhones before arriving at the station, completing a brief biometric face scan to verify that they are the genuine holder of the identity document. The biometric face verification, which uses iProov’s Genuine Presence Assurance technology, is then linked to their e-ticket, with confirmation sent to the passenger.”

But critics of facial recognition technology are afraid of the potential for misuse and misidentification. If biometric data, like facial scans, falls into the wrong hands, the results could be disastrous for the public-at-large. In some scenarios, individuals could even be targeted.

Despite the controversy, facial recognition technology is being pushed around the world. The city of Moscow implanted the tech on all of their train stations in October 2021, and Frontex is testing biometric scanning hardware for international travelers.

In the United States, Immigrations and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, has been using facial recognition systems on all border access points. Moreover, the federal government has already approved its usage wherever it is considered necessary.

Maintaining Compliance and Convenience

While critics of facial recognition technology have been quick to voice their concerns, those who support the technology are giving their opinions, too. In this case, any data processed via the new system is in complete compliance with the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation, or GDPR. The data is also deleted after a period of six hours.

Perhaps even more importantly, the data being collected via Eurostar’s SmartCheck facial scans are collected with consent from the passengers. Since the lack of consent has been a major issue with facial recognition systems in the past, Eurostar hopes to minimize the controversy of their new program.

But one of the biggest selling points of Eurostar's SmartCheck facial recognition system is the added convenience it provides to passengers. Thanks to the Genuine Presence Assurance technology of iProov, the whole identity verification process is effortless on the user’s behalf. It also provides a secure means of identification for officials at London’s St. Pancras International.


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