Facial recognition screening to apply to foreign visitors leaving Japan

Authorities hope that the screening system would strengthen anti-terrorism measures for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics.
Authorities hope that the screening system would strengthen anti-terrorism measures for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics.PHOTO: THE YOMIURI SHIMBUN/ASIA NEWS NETWORK

TOKYO (YOMIURI SHIMBUN/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - Foreign visitors leaving Japan will have their face screened at immigration, starting from fiscal 2019.

Under the system, a photograph of a traveller's face would be taken at the immigration counter. It would then be checked by a computer against the photo stored in his or her passport's IC chip. This is to confirm that both photos are of the same person.

With the system, a single immigration officer would be able to oversee multiple stations, freeing other officers to screen foreigners for entry and deal with suspicious persons.

Japanese nationals returning home are already subject to such facial screening.

The authorities hope that the system would strengthen anti-terrorism measures for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics.

Under the system, travellers place their passports over an electronic reader and position their face close to an attached camera. If a match is determined, entry or exit is approved.

Screenings take about 15 seconds, and the system can adapt to age-related changes.

"There would be almost no cases of misidentification," a senior official said.

The government began using the system in October last year (2017) for re-entry screenings of Japanese citizens at Haneda airport. Three machines handle about 20 per cent of all returnees, or about 2,600 people, daily at the airport.

This fiscal year, the government plans to start installing a total of 134 more machines at Haneda, Narita, Kansai, Chubu and Fukuoka airports. From next fiscal year, the machines would also be used to screen foreigners leaving the country at the five airports.

In conventional entry and exit screenings, an immigration officer usually confirms a person's identity through an interview-style interaction.

With facial recognition technology, one immigration officer could oversee the system on several machines, shortening the time required for checks. It is estimated that by operating 137 machines, dozens of officers will be able to undertake other duties.