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JFK Airport Begins Iris Scanning

November 15, 2002|From Associated Press

NEW YORK — John F. Kennedy International Airport has become the first in the nation to use iris scanning technology to prevent employee security breaches.

Kennedy has been testing the technology on about 300 employees working at Terminal 4 for two months, although the program is not mandatory for now.

John DeFelice, the international terminal's security director, said the technology prevents employees from giving their ID cards to someone else.

"I can give my card, but I can't give my eyes to anyone," he said.

DeFelice said he expects the Transportation Security Administration, which oversees the nation's travel systems, to require some sort of biometric screening for the terminal's 1,500 employees within the year.

The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which operates Kennedy, La Guardia and Newark (N.J.) Liberty airports, is testing different employee security systems but hasn't made a decision on iris scanning.

The $2,000 iris scanner and a $15,000 door barring entry into a secure area have been installed at the customs area leading to the tarmac.

The scanner stores 247 traits of a person's iris into a computer and on his or her ID card's magnetic strip. Terminal officials said they believe the technique is more specific than fingerprinting, which checks for 85 traits.

After swiping their cards, workers peer into the scanner for 10 to 15 seconds, until the door clicks open. The system works with contact lenses and eyeglasses, but not with sunglasses.

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