Airport biometrics: A big thumbs up for secure skies

Airport workers across Canada will soon be required to supply fingerprint identification to access restricted areas.

The Canadian Air Transport Security Authority will deploy biometric scanners in four airports as part of a pilot project.

If the pilot goes well the nation’s major airports

— 29 locations handling 92 per cent of Canadian air traffic — will be equipped with scanners by the end of the year.

Restricted areas of an airport include anywhere beyond the passenger security screening points. Workers affected by the move to biometric security measures include flight crews, caterers, refuelers, baggage handlers, even the people working in the concession stands, says Renée Fairweather, a spokesperson for CATSA. Those workers currently carry swipe-card security passes.

Airport workers are assigned document numbers when they are hired and receive security clearance by Transport Canada. A fingerprint scan will now generate a unique identifier stored on the pass. Biometric scanners on restricted doors will check the person’s actual fingerprint to the identifier on the pass and open the door accordingly.

According to CATSA, the database would contain only the document numbers employees are assigned when they are first hired and the biometric signature generated by the fingerprint — not an image of the fingerprint itself or any other personal information like names or addresses.

CATSA’s pilot program will affect 40,000 Canadian airport workers, but a full rollout would increase that number to 150,000. There are no plans to extend biometric security procedures to passengers at Canadian airports, but Fairweather says it’s a possibility for the future.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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