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Justice Ministry to test facial recognition software at Narita, Haneda airports

19 Comments

The Ministry of Justice plans to begin testing high-tech facial recognition software at automated immigration gates at Haneda and Narita airports from Aug 4 until Sept 5.

The tests will be limited to Japanese nationals holding passports with IC chips embedded in them, according to Japanese media. The software will scan facial data from the chips and match it with photos taken of the arriving passengers at immigration gates, the Nikkei reported.

The ministry's plans are just one facet of larger preparations being made for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. Although an increase in the number of immigration officers will be needed, the software will assist with quickly separating and documenting the increased traffic through international ports.

During the test period, the ministry is asking for the cooperation of all travelers coming in and out of Haneda and Narita.

Another aspect of the software being tested is that it will attempt to photograph individuals as they walk through the airport, the Nikkei reported.

The ministry will present a summary of the data to the cabinet by the end of the year and determine whether or not the software will be appropriate for permanent use.

Ministry officials said that many people arriving at Narita airport — both foreign nationals and Japanese — have complained about the long lines at immigration, especially during peak times when several aircraft arrive one after the other. Adding to the delays are numerous cases where fingerprint scanners don’t work the first time.

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19 Comments
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He'd better be careful... is that recognition software tied into those pictures of speeders database?

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Once again the use of technology is outpacing the debate on the limits of privacy.

Also, I don't really see how someone who has just spent 8 hours sitting in an aluminum tube can complain about a 10-15 wait in line. I think this is a false excuse.

0 ( +3 / -3 )

If it works then it's good; Narita is second only to that nasty CDG in France as my least favourite airport for waiting...

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

this will always be used against you, never in your favor. they are trampling on our privacy. it will not be limited to japanese nationals, that's a lie. every single mug-shot gets into the database. all surveillance cameras will be sending pictures to the database. then comes the program that does the actual matching. it never works perfect, but that's ok, because if the program selects 10 faces that best fit the sought-after-perpetrator, it's a small price to pay that 9 or all 10 innocents get terrorized by the police as suspects. i wish that the people developing the algorithms be a victim of their bugs, small price to pay since they work to develop tools for state-sponsored for repression.

10 ( +10 / -0 )

this will always be used against you, never in your favor

If it keeps criminals and immigration dodgers out, that's in my favor. The question is whether it does this.

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

A good and useful software.

-8 ( +0 / -8 )

Women with makeup and without makeup look different! Facial also changes with body hormone changes.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

Women with makeup and without makeup look different! Facial also changes with body hormone changes.

The eyes remain the same. The same of the head and features like nose, mouth, ears, all remain the same.

6 ( +7 / -1 )

The software will scan facial data from the chips and match it with photos taken of the arriving passengers at immigration gates

Does anyone else here see the massive and gaping security hole here?

IC chips are reprogrammable. It would be tricky for you or I to do it, but well within the capabilities of the sort of people who fake passports for a living or even a decent software or electrical engineer. Some radio control hobbyists also do it to change the settings on their radio control planes.

If the software is relying on the data from the IC chip alone and not comparing it to any external data source then this add absolutely nothing to security, in fact it just makes it easier for someone with a fake passport to walk through.

This leads us to one of two conclusions. Either the people who designed this system are flaming idiots with no idea of how security is supposed to work, or the Japanese government is lying to people about maintaining an external database of facial data.

Neither option inspires confidence in the Japanese government, they're either liars or fools.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

Different wig? Died hair? Different hair-do? Different glasses? Different color lipsticks? I agree with Freddie King. People forget what they had on original photo, too, especially traveling to foreign country and come back. .

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

toshikoAug. 02, 2014 - 12:28PM JST Different wig? Died hair? Different hair-do? Different glasses? Different color lipsticks? I agree with Freddie King. People forget what they had on original photo, too, especially traveling to foreign country and come back.

Hi Toshiko,

Actually facial recognition software operates on factors like, the distance from ear to ear, the size of the mouth, the level of the cheeks, the height of the brow, distance between the eyes, eye shape, etc, etc.

Some of these can be concealed by a wig, a beard, and dark glasses, but there are normally still enough measurements to make a match based on the slight asymmetries in most faces.

Someone would need to deliberately be trying to conceal their face by using modeling clay or something to change their cheek shape, plus wearing dark glasses, plus cultivating a lustrous beard, etc. In which case it would just flag them as unrecognisable and they'd have to go to a queue.

Someone who just got a tan, a haircut or their hair dyed shouldn't be a problem for the newest software.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

First and foremost, this is about money. YOU won't see any of it.

To play with a Ben Franklin quote, those willing to pay more money and give up some rights for security will not have any money, rights or security.

As has already been pointed out, this will make security people less aware, and they will just trust the machine.

But, I promise you, if this goes though, this will be used everywhere you go eventually. All your movements will be tracked and logged. All things being equal, it might not seem so bad. But when the government starts making crazy laws, like making it illegal to drink alcohol, or have sex outside of marriage (don't laugh. Laws like those appear and disappear all the time), you may find yourself in jail. Or find yourself visiting your son or daughter in jail.

This society is rich and safe enough. This technology is worse than useless. It will be part of the downfall of all we have now.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Wear a mask and/or a hat if you are concerned.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

The tests will be limited to Japanese nationals holding passports with IC chips embedded in them

1 ( +3 / -2 )

Unfortunately Japanese nationals cannot choose to apply for a passport without an IC chip.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Downvote for saying that it's good if waiting time is reduced? Well I apologise to those of you who enjoy that part of your journey ;-)

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I find it interesting that the government has the money to pay for such a thing just after raising sales taxes to comabt the debt and Fukushima.

And let's be honest, we're all in the syste. I'm kind of glad the locals can now have their privacy invaded. I wonder when the outcry with begin?

So, how long until the data base is broken into and info stolen - or sold.

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

There are Japanese people who came to USA and get face-lift operations and return to Japan, but these are rare. So, this new system will be effective. Ministry of Justice is just testing now at Narita and Haneda. It is not legalized yet.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

I think they've been intentionally understaffing the Immigration gates just so people would be more apt to accept this intrusion on dignity.

People will give up anything for convenience, so the government creates the inconvenience in the first place.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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