Had Malaysia — the first country in the world to introduce a biometric ePassport and a leader in automated border control eGates — biometrically verified passengers against travel documents and visa databases, individuals traveling under illegitimate travel documents could have been identified before boarding the flight.
Had the Kula Lumpur International Airport required biometrics authentication for everyone with access to airplanes, investigators would have a reliable record of each individual who accessed the aircraft prior to take off.
These measures may not have prevented the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines flight 370, but they may very well prevent similar tragedies in the future.
While I would argue that the billions of dollars spent on biometric passports, visas, and automated border controls since 9/11 have made us safer, more must be done to make sure the biometric technology we have is actually used. Government agencies increasingly rely on biometrics to issue and validate passports and visas, and monitor border crossings on entry and exit. However, transitioning to a comprehensive biometric–based border management and aviation security system is a complex process that, unfortunately, takes time.
Acuity’s latest ABC research indicates that 150 airports have some form of automated border control eGates or kiosks that either rely on ePassports or require separate biometric registration. This number will likely double over the next five years.
Acuity has previously reported that by the end of 2014, 110 countries will have issued more than 700 million biometric ePassports worldwide representing 83% of all those in circulation and that there will be 66 countries that require visa applicants to submit biometrics.
Currently, there are at least ten countries, including the US, that collect biometrics from all foreign visitors when they enter the country. While the US is reviving plans to integrate an exit program as well, the EU is in the early stages of developing an integrated entry/exit program of their own.