Facial recognition can help re-start post-pandemic travel. Here’s how to limit the risks

(Credit: Unsplash)

This article is brought to you thanks to the collaboration of The European Sting with the World Economic Forum.

Author: Lofred Madzou, Project Lead, Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning, World Economic Forum

  • The contactless technology is seen as a key measure being increasingly used by transport companies to address passenger fears about virus transmission
  • Potential widespread use raises concerns over privacy, surveillance and racial profiling risks
  • To combat these challenges, the World Economic Forum has released Responsible Limits on Facial Recognition, Use Case: Flow Management, an actionable framework to ensure the responsible use of facial recognition technology
  • Early success of recommendations show potential for further roll-out

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on transportation companies, especially airports and train stations, because of the travel restrictions implemented by most countries around the world and passengers’ growing fear of travel.

In the aviation industry, according to the International Air Transport Association (IATA), passenger air transport measured as revenue passenger kilometre was down 94% year-on-year in April 2020, across all regions. Eurostat also observed a dramatic drop in demand for rail transport services. Compared with the second quarter of 2019, the sector experienced a 94% decrease in the number of rail passengers in Ireland, 78% in France, and 77% in Italy.

In response to the pandemic, transportation companies had to make immediate major operational adjustments, including limiting passenger capacity, introducing intensive cleaning and consolidating terminals. Yet there is also a growing acknowledgment that regaining passengers’ trust in the post-COVID-19 world will require significant investment in digital technologies to address health and safety concerns.

To this end, an increasing number of industry players are turning to facial recognition technology (FRT), which is perceived as an efficient means to ensure a seamless and contactless passenger journey while preventing virus transmission.

Facial recognition technology requires a robust governing structure

While the development of this technology creates considerable opportunities for the transportation industry, it also raises serious governance challenges for passengers and citizens alike. Indeed, its deployment may further undermine passengers’ privacy, contribute to consolidating surveillance infrastructure and perpetuate systemic racism because of its well-documented bias issue against minorities.

To address these challenges, the World Economic Forum’s governance framework is structured around two key components. Firstly, a self-assessment questionnaire that details the requirements organizations must respect to ensure compliance with the 10 principles for action, which define what responsible use of FRT actually means for this use-case.

Secondly, we recommend the creation of an audit framework, run by third-party certification bodies, that validates the robustness of the risk-mitigation processes introduced by transportation companies. As such, this initiative represents the most comprehensive response to the risks associated with FRT for flow management applications, led by a global and multi-stakeholder community.

Major industry actors such as Narita International Airport (Tokyo), NEC corporation have already tested the self-assessment questionnaire with great success. Also, their answers (available here) have convinced us that the framework is ripe for wider roll-out and adoption in the aviation industry. Now, other industry players are about to run a similar test.

Moving forward

Market forecast confirms that the COVID-19 pandemic will have long-term effects on the aviation industry, even in the hypothesis of a vaccine being globally accessible by the end of 2021. To recover and then thrive, airports and airline companies will need to adapt to the “new normal”. This implies addressing passengers’ increased concerns for health and safety through the deployment of facial recognition technology while effectively mitigating the risks associated with this emerging technology. To a lesser extent, the rail industry faces a similar challenge.

In recent years, public concerns about facial recognition technology have grown and civil society calls for stronger regulation of this emerging technology has intensified. As they rely increasingly on this technology to improve flow management, transportation companies need to adopt an appropriate policy response to maximize its benefits.

We argue that this can be achieved by adopting our governance framework. Indeed, taking the self-assessment questionnaire and going through the certification scheme, in collaboration with a certification body, is an agile and robust way to build trust with passengers, regulators and citizens.

In this spirit, we encourage industry players, public actors, civil society representatives, certification bodies, policymakers and academics to join our initiative and participate in our open and experimental approach to strengthen this certification model and ensure its impact.

the sting Milestone

Featured Stings

Can we feed everyone without unleashing disaster? Read on

These campaigners want to give a quarter of the UK back to nature

How to build a more resilient and inclusive global system

Stopping antimicrobial resistance would cost just USD 2 per person a year

New EU rules ensure better protection for 120 million holidaymakers this summer

European Border and Coast Guard: 10 000-strong standing corps by 2027

Google succumbs unconditionally to EU’s “right to be forgotten” ruling

COVID-19 will hit the developing world’s cities hardest. Here’s why

Tributes for ‘role model’ former UN refugee agency chief, Sadako Ogata

The big five EU telecom operators in dire straights

AI can wreak havoc if left unchecked by humans

Clamp down on illegal trade in pets, urge Public Health Committee MEPs

As conflicts become more complex, ‘mediation is no longer an option; it is a necessity’, UN chief tells Security Council

We are ‘burning up our future’, UN’s Bachelet tells Human Rights Council

Hydrogen isn’t the fuel of the future. It’s already here

5 ways COVID-19 has changed workforce management

Terrorism and migrants: the two awful nightmares for Europe and Germany in 2016

EU job-search aid worth €2 million for 500 former shipbuilding workers in Spain

France pushes UK to stay and Germany to pay

Where EU air pollution is deadliest

China rare earth prices soar on their potential role in trade war

Harmonised Unemployment Rates (HURs), OECD – Updated: February 2020

UN spotlights wellbeing of seafarers on International Day

‘Much more’ can be done to raise awareness about the plight of persons with albinism: UN chief

UN-backed intercultural dialogue forum urged to keep working to ‘bridge gap between the like-minded’

EU joint response to disasters: deal reached with Council

Combatting terrorism: Parliament sets out proposals for a new EU strategy

This South Korean city once had the biggest coronavirus outbreak outside of China. Now it’s reported zero new cases

Commission moves to ensure supply of personal protective equipment in the European Union

5 crises that could worsen under COVID-19

Finland has just published everyone’s taxes on ‘National Jealousy Day’

ITU Telecom World 2017: exploring smart digital transformation

European Parliament calls on Russia to end occupation of Georgian territories

5 neuroscience hacks that will make you happier

RescEU: MEPs vote to upgrade EU civil protection capacity

All for equality – 2020 is a pivotal year for Gender Equality

Deeper reforms in Korea will ensure more inclusive and sustainable growth

UN Climate Action Summit concludes with insufficient EU and global pledges

Milk, fruits and vegetables distributed to schoolchildren thanks to EU programme

China’s cities are rapidly becoming more competitive. Here’s why

Security Council must ‘come together’ to address the plight of children trapped in armed conflict, says UN envoy

EU Migrant Crisis: Italian Coast Guard Headquarters and Italian Navy to give host national opening addresses at Border Security 2016 in Rome

New EU-UK agreement is welcome but thorough scrutiny remains, insist lead MEPs

Coal addiction ‘must be overcome’ to ease climate change, UN chief says in Bangkok

EU27 leaders unite on Brexit Guidelines ahead of “tough negotiations” with Theresa May

How to get young people in Europe to swipe right on voting

This is Amsterdam’s ambitious plan to turn its transport electric

Reforms in Latvia must result in stronger enforcement to tackle foreign bribery and subsequent money laundering risks

Parliament boosts consumer rights online and offline

What is systemic racism, and how can we combat it?

EU Council approves visa-free travel for Ukraine and cement ties with Kiev

Powering a climate-neutral economy: Commission sets out plans for the energy system of the future and clean hydrogen

Marginalized groups hit hardest by inequality and stigma in cities

OECD joins with Japan to fight financial crime by establishing new academy

The business case for diversity in the workplace is now overwhelming

EU Parliament and Council: Close to agreement on the bank resolution mechanism

Poor quality is healthcare’s silent killer. Here’s what we can do about it

ECB asks for more subsidies to banks

Global trade is broken. Here are five ways to rebuild it

Intervene, don’t overthink – the new mantra of systems design

We need natural solutions to fight ocean and climate risk

EU Parliament: No EU-US trade agreement without safe data

The MWC14 Sting Special Edition

Italy and Greece zeroed their fiscal deficits, expect Germany’s response

More Stings?


Speak your Mind Here

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s