British Authorities Test Biometric Security System

LONDON_Europe's busiest airport began testing a biometric scanning system on Wednesday, with passengers providing fingerprints and personal information to help speed their way through security, officials said.

The voluntary trial at Heathrow Airport's Terminal 3 was launched by Liam Byrne, Britain's immigration minister, and runs until January 2007. It is being conducted jointly by airport authorities and immigration services in Britain, Dubai and Hong Kong.

"The reason that this kind of technology is important is not just because it helps travelers go through the system quicker, but also because it makes the system more secure," Byrne said.

In the first part of the trial, passengers on selected Cathay Pacific or Emirates flights can register their fingerprints and their passport at check-in, and that is used as a "virtual key" during boarding and passport checks.

The second part enables all passengers leaving the terminal to enroll in the system by registering 13 different biometric scans - an image of their face, two iris scans and 10 fingerprints - to test an international program and "fast path" departures and arrival in Britain.

The third part of the trial involves testing of advance passenger information by British authorities, and all three parts of the trial are to run simultaneously.