Tech Bytes

In October 2001, Amsterdam Airport Schiphol began a pilot program similar to the Trusted Traveler and the US-VISIT programs in the U.S. Called Privium, the Schiphol program allows travelers going through the airport an expedited screening experience.

According to senior communications manager, Marianne de Bie, there are three levels of membership in the Privium program: Privium Plus, Privium Basic, and Privium Partner. Paying an annual fee ranging from EUR 99 (approximately U.S. $127) to EUR 119 (approximately U.S. $152), allows participants various features such as priority parking, business class check in with the 18 participating airlines, and "fast and secure border passage."

The two main components of the program are a membership card and biometrics. When anyone applies for membership, he or she undergoes an iris scan. According to de Bie, the scan recognizes some 256 measuring points which are used to reproduce the pattern of light and dark of the iris; this is unique to every person. That data is stored in a chip on the individual's Privium identification card. Each time the card is swiped, the data in the chip is compared to the scan of the person presenting his or her iris. For security and privacy purposes, the iris scans are not stored in a database.

While fingerprints and hand geometry can be used to identify people, de Bie says iris scan was chosen for, in part, hygiene reasons no one actually touches the machine to his or her body in order to scan the iris.

The program has some 16,000 members. To participate, travelers must hold a valid passport from a country in the European Economic Area (EEA) or Switzerland.

In mid-January, Secretary of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Tom Ridge announced that DHS and the Dutch Immigration and Integration offices will work together to develop an international registered traveler program. Ridge comments, "The success of the US-VISIT program, particularly in deploying biometrics technology and processes, has given us the confidence to move forward with voluntary expedited travel programs using biometrics." Ridge goes on to say that Schiphol?s experience with biometric-based facilitation programs made the Netherlands an ideal choice with which to begin this cooperative effort.