The Eurostar is equipping Saint Pancras station with a new facial recognition system.
This is a first in the rail industry. A new biometric identification system has been implemented at Saint Pancras station in London to facilitate the movement of Eurostar travellers. The only entry point from continental Europe to visit the country of crumpets, the place welcomes more than 11 million people each year. Every day, traffic is saturated with crowds, and identity checkpoints often act as a bottleneck, especially since the UK’s exit from the Schengen area, which ensured the free movement of goods. and persons between member countries of the European Union.
Facial recognition to facilitate travel
To facilitate the movement of travelers and relieve congestion at checkpoints, Eurostar has implemented a new biometric identification system with the SmartCheck system, developed by the British company iProov. Before their departure, passengers must download a dedicated application, in order to register their tickets, and have their ID certified. Once at the station, they then just have to cross a dedicated corridor. A camera will then be responsible for identifying and validating the passage of each traveler, without the latter needing to stop at a checkpoint to have their identity validated.
For the moment, the device only exists on the British side, and is reserved for Business Premier and Carte Blanche passengers. Once in France, passengers will still have to go through the customs box, and undergo a traditional identity check.
A danger to privacy?
Behind the practical side of the maneuver, the SmartCheck technology raises obvious questions around data confidentiality and respect for privacy. The company behind the technology is nevertheless reassuring: “It’s not surveillance. A passenger can choose not to use SmartCheck, and no one is forcing them to do so.“, assures the boss of the company Andrew Bud. As for the dematerialized identity papers which are beginning to appear in France, in particular by the intermediary of France Identityfacial recognition in the Eurostar will be on a voluntary basis only, and will not be compulsory.
On a practical level, the data will be stored on the user’s phone locally, and fully encrypted. They will then be shared with passport control services, and deleted after 48 hours. Still, if the device promises to be totally respectful of privacy, it already opens the way to more intrusive systems. Eventually, iProov should be adapted to other public places, such as stadiums, concert halls and gatherings”.