e-democ / e-gov

Building a security hole into our immigration process

It was with some concern that I read this week's Computing. The front page report is that Heathrow airport will be the first to allow frequent travellers to use Project IRIS (Iris Recognition Immigration System). Currently voluntary, this program is part of the eBorders programme being effectively imposed on us by the USA.

How does Project IRIS work? Foreign-passport holders who regularly pop into the UK will be able to register their details, including iris pattern, before leaving our pastures green. On their return the traveller will have their iris re-scanned and if it matches a gate will automatically open letting them proceed on their merry way.

I imagine that there will be the odd official watching these gates in case someone isn't let through. Nevertheless it seems inevitable that visitors using this system will be under considerably less scrutiny than those entering through the traditional stare-and-stamp approach. Authorities, complacently confident that iris scans are a wonderful techno-solution will happily let the robots wave people through.

Personally I don't go for all the immigration or terrorism scare-mongery. But I do hate poorly designed security… Any terrorist with a clean record (ie any sleeper agent, as all the 9/11 perpetrators allegedly were) will love the opportunity to dodge scrutiny that RoboGate offers. By all accounts this automated biometric system is creating a security risk, not preventing one.