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Airport Screening While Wearing Masks? Facial Recognition Tech Shows Up to 96% Accuracy in Recent Test

Passengers checking in at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport.

A controlled scenario test by the Department of Homeland Security Science and Technology Directorate shows promising results for facial recognition technologies to accurately identify individuals wearing protective face masks.

Credit: Brian Cassella/Chicago Tribune

A controlled test of facial recognition technologies by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Science and Technology Directorate (S&T) found potential for accurately identifying individuals while they wear face masks.

The test was performed as part of S&T's 2020 Biometric Technology Rally at a test facility in Maryland, and could make removal of masks at airports or ports of entry less necessary.

The rally assessed how well biometric acquisition systems and matching algorithms could reliably collect and match images of individuals wearing various face coverings.

Median system performance had a 93% identification rate without masks, with the best-performing system correctly identifying individuals with 100% accuracy.

With masks, the systems' median identification rate was 77%, and the best-performing system correctly identified individuals 96% of the time.

Said S&T’s Arun Vemury, “This isn’t a perfect 100% solution, but it may reduce risks for many travelers, as well as the frontline staff working in airports, who no longer have to ask all travelers to remove masks.”

From U.S. Department of Homeland Security
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