Privacy Advisor

Global Privacy Dispatches - France

May 1, 2009
Air France tests biometrics for autonomous boarding

Air France began testing what could be part of “the airport of the future” on March 17. The smartboarding® card, enables autonomous boarding and is available for frequent Paris-to-Amsterdam travellers to test on a voluntary basis.

To do so, the customer must create his smartboarding® card, which includes an RFID chip (radio frequency identification) containing the customer's name and surname, his/her frequent traveller identification number, and the encrypted fingerprint template of his/her index finger.

To obtain the boarding pass, the customer introduces his/her smartboarding® card in the terminal, and the departure management system verifies the coded identification information. The passenger then receives his card with flight and booking information printed on the back.

Then, at boarding time, the passenger passes through a portico where a control compares the device fingerprint to that stored on the card.

Thus, the smartboarding® card includes three types of technologies: biometrics (for the fingerprint template encrypted on the chip), RFID (dialogue within a short distance using radio waves), and the technology of thermal printing (rewritable up to 500 times).

Since the system involves the automated processing of personal data based on the recognition of fingerprints to control passengers boarding an aircraft, Air France has requested the prior authorisation of the CNIL in compliance with the French data protection law. During a deliberation in June 2008, the CNIL decided to authorize the implementation of this processing (deliberation 2008-179). The CNIL noted that only the personal data of volunteers would be processed and that the fingerprint template would be stored only on an individual media owned by the data subject (as opposed to centralized database).