Japan readies facial recognition at airports to stop terrorists
TOKYO -- Mindful of the importance of tighter immigration control ahead of the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo, the Japanese government will start using a facial recognition system at airports to strengthen its ability to catch terrorists trying to sneak into the country.
Photographing the face of every incoming foreigner already is part of the passport control system at Narita, Haneda and other Japanese airports. The new facial recognition system will allow those photos to be compared instantly against images of terrorists.
The Justice Ministry seeks roughly 300 million yen ($2.69 million) in its fiscal 2016 budget request to install the system at all immigration sections at airports nationwide. The ministry already received about 800 million yen in the fiscal 2015 supplementary budget to roll out the system, beginning as soon as this summer.
The ministry created a center for handling intelligence related to foreign visitors last autumn. Staffed with intelligence specialists, this center in January began obtaining data from airlines such as the names, ages and nationalities of incoming passengers as well as places they had visited prior to boarding the aircraft.
Such information, as well as fingerprints, already is used in the Japanese passport control process to stop undesirable individuals from entering the country. But when dealing with terrorists, photos are often the only available information.
The ministry has intensified efforts to gather image data on terrorists since October, working with the National Police Agency and other domestic investigative and security agencies. It will bolster the efforts by promoting information sharing with immigration authorities worldwide.
Foreign visitors to Japan soared 39% in 2015, reaching a record 19.68 million. The attacks in Paris and other terrorism incidents in major cities around the world have increased concerns that Tokyo also may be targeted.