Saturday, 16 November 2013

It's technology that slows down passport control.

According to a recent article in The Times, now that the new UK passport will carry the photograph of the bearer at the front it will remove, 'that quirk that used to allow us to stand out from the rest of the world,' and which, apparently, 'baffled immigration officials in America and many other countries.'

Avoiding the temptation to speculate on what would not baffle an American immigration official, I find it misleading and rather insulting to imply that passport officials waste time trying to find their way around passports. The passports of many countries in the Middle and Far East open 'at the back' and have done so for decades. Passport officials know this and work accordingly. What slows down passport control is not 'back to front passports' but the application of technology to the process.

A British family of five travelling on their joint passport could be checked by a British immigration officer in about five seconds. Now each family member must hold their own passport -- this earns more money for the government. The computer takes eighteen seconds to verify the microchip. That family of five now wait for ninety seconds and so does everybody in the queue behind them.

I've said it before and I shall no doubt have cause to say it again: we are teaching machines to do badly what a human can do so well.

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