Myth: Airlines will keep passengers’ identities and facial data on-file.
In this age of increasingly frequent data breaches, airlines don’t want to store any more personally identifiable information (PII) than they absolutely have to, lest they incur additional IT burden, expenses and liability.
In the example given above, when you visit the United States, the CPB captures your facial image on arrival as part of admitting you into the country. These images are then used to compare to your face when you depart.
Myth: Facial recognition replaces current security measures.
Facial recognition doesn’t mean secure documents will disappear. Digital passports, traditional IDs and even those stored on mobile devices will still be heavily involved in the traveller verification process. Longstanding airport security like manual inspections of physical identity and travel documents will remain in place for a long time to come. What will likely be phased out are boarding passes, but those had little security value or true verification mechanisms behind them anyway – they’re mostly symbolic tokens for logistics.
Myth: Facial recognition is the precursor to a Big Brother scenario inside airports and beyond.
With facial recognition for travel purposes, it’s worth noting the distinct difference between surveillance – constantly scanning a crowd for identification – and the use cases for verification at check-in or boarding currently being proposed and piloted in some countries around the world. In the latter, it’s a 1:1:1 closed loop match in that the live face presented need only match the digital face image on the passport and the reference image associated with the flight manifest. No data is stored away, no additional data is gathered, no further matching is executed and nothing leaves the transaction. This is likely to emerge as best practice, and will thus likely be applied when this technology arrives in South Africa.
The use of facial recognition for identification would be something that the police or security services would undertake and would thus be governed by the relevant laws.
Myth: The technology isn’t currently reliable enough to be trusted.
Technology matures rapidly in the modern era. Facial recognition is already standard in the Microsoft Windows operating system and on some models of iPhones; consumers can see for themselves how well these applications work. The technology being introduced in airports is just as good.
There are limitations, of course, including the necessity for good lighting, but that would apply even to a human agent: people don’t see in the dark, either. It is because of limitations like this that a human expert constantly backs up facial recognition for now.
And there’s an advantage that the technology confers, too. Facial recognition in its current state also isn’t subject to nearly the same conscious or unconscious biases that inherently skew human judgement. In that way, it’s already a step up.
Couple that with the fact that facial recognition has been fine-tuned in more controlled scenarios and put through rigorous real-world field tests. Even better, recent and coming developments in AI and machine learning will only advance facial recognition’s capabilities and increase levels of accuracy.
If facial recognition and its potential
benefits for air travel are going to get a fair shake, we must work from a verifiable, consistent set of facts rather than
being distracted by fiction, distortions and conspiracy theories. After all,
the purpose of the technology is safer, easier and more convenient travel. And
that benefits us all.
 Ondela Mlandu, “SA airports to get new time-saving biometric system”, Getaway (3 December 2018), available at https://www.getaway.co.za/travel-news/airports-to-get-new-time-saving-biometric-system/.
Notre Dame, Scoop Makhathini, GoT, top week in search
From fire disaster to social media disaster, the top Google searches this week covered a wide gamut of themes.
Paris and the whole world looked on in shock as the 856-year-old medieval Catholic cathedral crumbled into ash. The tragic infernal destruction of this tourist attraction of historical and religious significance led South Africans to generate more than 200 000 search queries for “Notre Dame Cathedral” on Monday. Authorities are investigating the cause of the fire that razed the architectural icon.
In other top trending searches on Google this week, radio presenter Siyabonga Ngwekazi, AKA Scoop Makhathini, went viral when it appeared he had taken to Twitter to expose his girlfriend, Akhona Carpede, for cheating on him. Scoop has since come out to say that he was not responsible for the bitter rant and that his account was hacked. “Scoop Makhathini” generated more than 20 000 search queries on Wednesday.
Fans generated more than 20 000 search queries for “Sam Smith” on Tuesday ahead of the the British superstar’s Cape Town performance at the Grand West Casino. Smith ended up cutting his performance short that night due to vocal strain.
Local Game of Thrones superfans were beside themselves on Sunday, searching the internet high and low for the first episode of the American fantasy drama’s eighth season. “Game of Thrones, season 8, episode 1” generated more than 100 000 queries on Google Search on the weekend.
As the festivities kicked off in California with headliners such as Childish Gambino and Ariana Grande, South Africans generated more than 2 000 search queries for “Coachella” on Saturday.
South Africans generated more than 5 000 search queries for “Wendy Williams” on Friday as it emerged that the American talk show host had filed for divorce from her husband Kevin Hunter after 21 years of marriage. Hunter has long been rumored to have been cheating on Williams, which reportedly finally led to the divorce.
Search trends information is gleaned from data collated by Google based on what South Africans have been searching for and asking Google. Google processes more than 40 000 search queries every second. This translates to more than a billion searches per day and 1.2 trillion searches per year worldwide. Live Google search trends data is available at https://www.google.co.za/trends/hottrends#pn=p40
5G smartphones to hit 5M sales in 2019
According to the latest research from Strategy Analytics, global smartphone shipments will reach a modest 5 million units in 2019. Early 5G smartphone models will be expensive and available in limited volumes. Samsung, LG and Huawei will be the early 5G smartphone leaders this year, followed by Apple next year.
Ken Hyers, Director at Strategy Analytics, said, “We forecast global 5G smartphone shipments will reach a modest 5 million units in 2019. Less than 1 percent of all smartphones shipped worldwide will be 5G-enabled this year. Global 5G smartphone shipments are tiny for now, due to expensive device pricing, component bottlenecks, and restricted availability of active 5G networks.”
Ville Petteri-Ukonaho, senior analyst at Strategy Analytics, added, “Samsung will be the early 5G smartphone leader in the first half of 2019, due to initial launches across South Korea and the United States. We predict LG, Huawei, Xiaomi, Motorola and others will follow later in the year, followed by Apple iPhone with its first 5G model during the second half of 2020. The iPhone looks set to be at least a year behind Samsung in the 5G smartphone race and Apple must be careful not to fall too far behind.”
Neil Mawston, executive director at Strategy Analytics, added, “The short-term outlook for 5G smartphones is weak, but the long-term opportunity remains huge. We forecast 1 billion 5G smartphones to ship worldwide per year by 2025. The introduction of 5G networks, by carriers like Verizon or China Mobile, opens up high-speed, ultra-low-latency services such as 8K video, streaming games, and augmented reality for business. The next big question for the mobile industry is how much extra consumers are really willing to pay, if anything, for those emerging 5G smartphones and services.”
Strategy Analytics provides a snapshot analyses for the outlook for 5G smartphone market in this Insight report: 5G Smartphones : From Zero to a Billion
Strategy Analytics provides a deep-dive into the air-interface technologies that will power phones through 2024 across 88 countries here: Global Handset Sales Forecast by 88 Countries and 19 Technologies : 2003 to 2024