Facial recognition and social media scans at airports
A SECURITY crackdown scouring overseas travellers' social media for terror links and checking their identities with global criminal databases could be a reality at Australian airports.
The Home Affairs Department is considering rolling out the new technology, which can use biometrics and facial recognition to instantly scan passengers' identities with Interpol, no-fly lists and criminal databases around the world.
As passengers step off a plane and walk through an airport terminal, the software scans their faces and biometric print, instantly matching it with social media and law-enforcement databases.
The cutting edge technology, which is known as LineSight, has been developed by US company Unisys and is already being used at the US borders with Mexico and Canada.
The company has been having recent discussions with Home Affairs minister Peter Dutton's department, but a final decision has not been made about whether the technology will be used at major Australian airports.
Unisys CEO Peter Altabef, who was in Australia this week, confirmed he has had a number of discussions with government entities of the potential use of LineSight.
"When you have a standard immigration check, whether at a machine or in detail with an agent you have less than two seconds to do a check of all of the databases you are looking at so obviously no human can do that," Mr Altabef told The Daily Telegraph.
"Ultimately to reduce things like sex trafficking and terrorism - this is the aim of the game here.
"What we have done with this system is go much deeper (than a standard immigration check).
"We have to identify who you are but then we say 'so the name is right but what do we know about you and should you be concerned about it'."
The company was awarded a $44 million contract by the Department of Home Affairs earlier this year to upgrade facial recognition scanners, which will be active by early 2019.
LineSight scrutinises social media accounts through a combination of artificial intelligence and machine learning technology, which can be combined with the new facial recognition scans to give customs agents the power to instantly probe passengers.
Mr Altabef said the technology worked by accessing international databases which prompt an alert if a passenger has a criminal history abroad or whether their social media histories reveal inconsistencies with the information they give at customs.
"If there is a screaming piece of data like someone is on a no fly list you probably don't need this system to determine that," he said.
"But how do you determine from individual criminal records that go back into different countries to where someone lives, compared to their companion, and whether they come from the same cities and whether people are actually related or not when they say they are?
"What you have are huge data lakes (with) which you can use your intelligence to grab connections that are not obvious and that is the key to this. It is the combination of non-obvious data points which get you to that conclusion quickly, which is what gets results."
Mr Altabef said he has had a number of discussions with government entities of the potential use of LineSight.
He also said the technology could be customised to add or remove access to public social media accounts.
"If the government says we want to access all of the public data available on these websites you can do that.
"This gives the capability to reach out to all of that data and the government can decide which data it wants to be able to look at."
Despite heightened security at the nation's airports, a number of Australian-born extremists have managed to fly out to join terror armies such as Islamic State in Middle East war zones in recent years.
It also emerged earlier this year that an alleged plot to bring down a passenger plane flying out of Sydney was only averted through the help of Israeli authorities.