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Anchoring Trust in Air Passenger Journeys — Building A Trust Chain for Identity Verification

Identity verification technologies are transforming the passenger journey into a secure, seamless experience while also enhancing airport efficiency. This requires best-in-class facial recognition and document validation working together to establish trust and carry it forward to all the travel journey touchpoints, from booking a trip to arrival at a destination. The process is complex and requires specialized technologies working together in harmony, but they are all implemented in service of a core philosophy: an anchored trust chain.

Trust Chains and Trust Anchors in Air Travel

In air travel, the concept of a trust chain can best be envisioned through the passenger journey. As a passenger progresses from booking through security, boarding and arrival, they are continually verifying their identity — proving they are who they claim to be, before being allowed to continue on to the next touchpoint. All these identity verification transactions are linked together, providing assurance that the person who started the journey is the one completing it.

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The concept of a trust chain can best be envisioned through the passenger journey: passengers are continually verifying their identity — proving they are who they claim to be, before being allowed to continue on to the next touchpoint.

Traditionally, aviation stakeholders have addressed this need for a trust chain by implementing onerous, high-friction identity checks at each touchpoint, demanding passengers to submit photo ID and a boarding pass to an agent for manual identity verification. But much of that friction and labor-intensive manual process can be avoided with a trust anchor: a strong identity token created at a passenger’s first touchpoint that can be referenced at every subsequent verification.

What Is a Trust Anchor?

There are two components to a trust anchor that allow it to be referenced properly and maintain the integrity in the trust chain: biographical data and biometrics.

  • Biographical data is represented in the travel experience by government-issued ID documents like passports. These are the documents that can be assessed to determine if the holder is cleared to fly.
  • Biometric data is used to link the passenger’s physical body to their biographical data. In air travel, the most common biometric data used is facial recognition.

A trust anchor is created by scanning a traveler’s face, matching it to their government ID and binding the two into an encrypted, high-trust digital credential. Once this process is complete, every subsequent identity verification can be handled with a simple face scan. Because the sensitive data is bound through biometrics — and because the biometric data is unique for every human — the biographical data only needs to be checked on the initial enrollment.

For example, when a passenger who is enrolled with a trust anchor boards the plane, they simply look at a facial recognition camera for a quick face scan. That face scan is matched to the person’s trust anchor to verify the passenger’s identity. The assurance is just as trustworthy as a traditional ID check, but much more convenient and seamless. The passenger is no longer required to present a boarding pass with an ID document at the boarding gate. The process is extremely fast and frictionless while maintaining the highest levels of security and identity assurance.

Trust and Privacy

Trust anchors are sensitive data and must be treated accordingly, not just to protect travelers, but also to comply with increasingly stringent biometric privacy laws like the Illinois Biometric Information Privacy Act (BIPA), which can carry serious financial penalties for aviation stakeholders.

The trust anchor data must be treated securely, referenced with transparency and deleted when it is no longer required. Passengers must be provided with clear notice every time their biometric information is collected and matched, and told why and how their face is being scanned.

While their implementation requires a strict privacy-by-design approach, the use of trust anchors greatly enhances the personal privacy of travelers, who no longer need to show their photo ID and boarding pass (containing their itinerary and biographical data) for identity verification at touchpoints. A face scan only has privacy implications when it can be linked to personal information, and in an anchored trust chain scenario, that sensitive data is protected, away from prying eyes.

The Importance of Technology in a Trust Anchor

A viable trust chain for air travel must be supported by biometric algorithms tested against bias, and facial recognition cameras that can accurately capture and match passengers quickly in various lighting conditions while preventing fraud attempts in unattended use cases.

The air travel identity ecosystem is complex and can present resource challenges to airlines and airports looking to implement such technology. In our fourth and final blog in this series, we will further examine the technologies that can enable the frictionless travel experience, as well as an innovative resource-conscious approach to deployment.

Learn more about the passenger journey and how identity verification will transform the travel experience today. Download HID’s latest eBook: Elevating the Passenger Journey With Biometrics and Identity Verification.

Interested in learning more about identity verification and the future of air travel? Be sure to read the other blogs in this series:

Imagining the Elevated Passenger Journey envisions seamless air travel enabled by identity verification technologies.

The Travel Experience Is Broken — Biometrics and Identity Verification Can Save the Day demonstrates how the most pressing challenges facing the air travel passenger experience can be addressed by biometrics and digital ID.