back to article Why can't passport biometrics see through my cunning disguise?

The customs officer likes my smile. He smiles back. Phew, another passage through international arrivals achieved without the slightest whiff of latex and talc. Still, these passport checks are getting longer and I don't mean the queueing. I mean the time I have to stand in front of the little booth while a uniformed gent – it …

  1. Alister Silver badge

    The wearing of glasses (or indeed hats, false moustaches or Ziggy Stardust makeup) in passport photos is forbidden

    Umm no, not if you are a habitual glasses wearer.

    That is to say: hats, false moustaches or Ziggy Stardust makeup are forbidden for everyone, but those who normally wear spectacles should wear them in their passport photograph - even if they were the NHS frames you had twenty years ago...

    1. GlenP Silver badge

      That's OK provided there isn't the merest hint of any glare on the lenses, as happened to me previously.

      The replacement photos, without glasses, taken in the booth at the passport office* were far worse but deemed acceptable.

      *Urgent business meeting and I found my passport had expired so had to go in person.

      1. Allan George Dyer Silver badge
        Paris Hilton

        Glare or reflection?

        The UK passport website has an option for uploading a photo, and it checks the acceptability. I uploaded a photo, and it was rejected for "reflection on face". There were no glasses, though it is true to say the face was reflecting light. However, there's an option for "use this photo anyway, your application may be rejected", so I used that, and the passport duly arrived.

        I'm now wondering whether HMPO expects photos illuminated only by your inner glow of mystic energy, or something.

        1. Jellied Eel Silver badge

          Re: Shock and Aura- A modest proposal.

          I'm now wondering whether HMPO expects photos illuminated only by your inner glow of mystic energy, or something.

          So Kirlian photography can show a person's aura*. As that aura is unique, because we're all individuals, this can be used to identify the person. The method for displaying the aura may need a little work, ie-

          Kirlian photography does not require the use of a camera or a lens because it is a contact print process. It is possible to use a transparent electrode in place of the high-voltage discharge plate, allowing one to capture the resulting corona discharge with a standard photo or video camera

          But this is not insurmountable. A few modifications to existing airport body scanners would enable hydraulic rams that would ensure travellers are sandwiched between discharge plate and sensor. This obviously has several security advantages, ie the suspect is temporarily restrained whilst their identity is verified. If the suspect is red flagged, then the voltage discharge can be increased. Studies have shown that this is safe** and would be lower cost than the current micro-harpooning method. Furthermore, in heightened security situations, an even higher discharge could be used to greatly reduce the threat, and provide evidence from the suspect for analysis via vents and suction tubes located at the bottom of the booth.

          *<spoiler>Ok, here's the missing /sarc tag</spoiler>

          ** safe-ish.

          1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

            Re: Shock and Aura- A modest proposal.

            An electric eel I presume?

          2. mr-slappy

            Re: Shock and Aura- A modest proposal.

            "As that aura is unique, because we're all individuals"

            I'm not.

            1. Jellied Eel Silver badge

              Re: Shock and Aura- A modest proposal.

              I'm not.

              Well, I'm sorry, but if you want to travel, then your individuality needs to be modified such that it's compatible with the system. Plus there's an additional benefit to my proposal. According to science*, your aura can also identify your mood, which can thus be utilised by the AI routines to determine the charge applied. We are also evaluating groundbreaking research by Milgram et al, and the potential to apply our system to individuality adjustment.

              As for eels, well, my family could provide law enforcement with an organic, sustainable alternative to both the baton and taser. Our labs are busy working on genetic modifications for land adapation and resilience. We are also developing directed energy attachments that can be far more useful than those sharks. Or prototype hybrid eel-python with carbon reinforced endoskeleton offers superior portability, throwability, conductivity and is available in an easy to carry 357cm form and can be belt carried, much like the existing colt-python.

              *science-ish. Journals of parapsychology are peer-reviewed and represent the truth. Ish.

        2. GruntyMcPugh Silver badge

          Re: Glare or reflection?

          @Allen George Dyer

          On rejection, I had a passport photo rejected because both ears need to be visible, and one was marginal. Problem being I have a head shaped like a breeze block, and very flat ears, so it took several attempts to get both in the shot.

      2. TonyJ Silver badge

        I had to renew my passport earlier this year.

        I was pleasantly surprised on two counts: first that you can use your mobile to take, and upload a photo and secondly that having done just that, at 06;15 on a Monday morning, my new passport was with me by 12pm on the Friday.

        I know that there is no reason why systems shouldn't work like this, but I am still pleasantly surprised when they do.

        1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          Should it really have taken so long?

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            >>>Should it really have taken so long?

            Perhaps the TAT includes shipping the French RFID chips to the Netherlands to be combined with the printed document before being dispatched to Britain?

          2. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

            Should it really have taken so long?

            I suspect that the delay is at the secure printers..

            1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

              I asked the question having worked at a secure printer.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Pleasantly surprised

          Knowing, as I do, that DXC are all over this, "bloody miraculous" is more like it.

        3. katrinab Silver badge

          Can you use your mobile to upload a photo taken by a DSLR camera? My iPhone makes me look about 15 years older than my EOS 1100D.

          1. Intractable Potsherd Silver badge

            But you ARE at least 15 years older than your EOS, shirley :-)

      3. E_Nigma

        Meh

        Here you still have to go in person, both to have your photo taken and to pick up the passport. The last time I went, they called me again the next day because the photo they took was later rejected. :/ Even the lady working there didn't know why exactly, but we assumed that it was probably glare or bad exposure because I shave my head, so she tried extra hard (with their really crappy light and camera) to make a decent photo. Similarly, something completely threw off the camera when they took the picture for my ID card, as the photo shows very little except a very faint silhouette of a head, a pair of eyes, a pair of nostrils and a mouth (but that one was somehow accepted). Fortunately I don't have to show it very often, because there's always a reaction.

    2. Alistair Dabbs

      Habitual glasses wearer

      I wear glasses when I'm not wearing contact lenses. I'm likely to wear contacts for daytime travel but I will have taken them out by the evening or for a long-haul flight. So if my passport photo showed me wearing glasses and I wasn't currently wearing any during the border checks, I'd have the same problem. After some thought, I decided it would be simpler to remove my specs if necessary than have to hunt for a pair in my baggage to put them on. I also considered the unpleasant scenario of being killed during international travel and the challenge of identifying my body until someone found a pair of glasses to shove on my dead face.

      1. Dr_N Silver badge

        Re: Habitual glasses wearer

        I wear glasses. And all my ID photos have me wearing glasses.

        Some non-governmental ePassport e-gate host/esses don't know that you can keep your glasses on and the machine can still ID you.

      2. Alister Silver badge

        Re: Habitual glasses wearer

        the challenge of identifying my body until someone found a pair of glasses to shove on my dead face.

        Yes, I can see you've given this some thought...

        :)

        1. Venerable and Fragrant Wind of Change

          Re: Habitual glasses wearer

          If I get killed in such (or any other) circumstances, it really will have ceased to matter to me who identifies me or how much time&effort they put into it.

        2. Kubla Cant Silver badge

          Re: Habitual glasses wearer

          the challenge of identifying my body until someone found a pair of glasses to shove on my dead face

          Never mind that. As long as you're wearing clean underwear.

          1. John H Woods

            Re: Clean underwear...

            ... doesn't often stay clean if you are in a traumatic accident

            1. earl grey Silver badge
              Unhappy

              Re: Clean underwear...

              True enough. Sadly got those around you, various sphincter have a go once you're no longer in control.

          2. Anomalous Custard

            Re: Habitual glasses wearer

            I had a circular conversation with someone about that.

            Me: Why would I care? I'll be dead.

            Them: But think of the embarrassment!

            Me: But I'll be dead...

            Them: But the shame!

            And so on for far too long.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Habitual glasses wearer

              I can think of a simple means to end the conversation. Ask if they have a will. Now, it matters if you're identified or not because the will can't go into effect until you're legally declared dead.

          3. the Jim bloke Silver badge
            Gimp

            Re: Habitual glasses wearer

            Never mind that. As long as you're wearing clean underwear.

            Over or under the glasses ?

            1. A K Stiles Silver badge

              Re: Habitual glasses wearer

              Duh - it's called "underwear" for a reason!

          4. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

            Re: Habitual glasses wearer

            As long as you're wearing clean underwear

            Especially if you are called Harold and there's a man[1] here from the BBC..

            [1] Correct in the context of when the song was written. Not so much now

      3. Muscleguy Silver badge

        Re: Habitual glasses wearer

        My wife worried that if I fell dead or the No42 bus of fate got me while out running she would not know. So I did a wee online search and located a company which makes med alert bracelets and ID tags. I have an aluminium rubber bordered dog tag necklace which I don when running when I would otherwise not carry ID.

        It has my full name and DoB, my wife’s phone #, my NHS # and my blood group. I have been tissue typed as a blood platelet donor, am a registered organ donor and have kept my organs in good nick. I’m 54 but have the heart of a 30 years old (max pulse: 220 - Age, mine is 190).

        If you are worried about your body being IDed get yourself an ID tag. Though it might trip the scanner at the airport . . .

        1. Hans Neeson-Bumpsadese Silver badge

          Re: Habitual glasses wearer

          I’m 54 but have the heart of a 30 years old

          I have one of those too. Do you find that you need to change the formaldehyde in the jar occasionally to stop it going cloudy?

          1. hmv Bronze badge

            Re: Habitual glasses wearer

            You're supposed to keep the heart of a 30-year old in a reliquary on the bedside table; sure it smells a bit for the first 10 years or so, but traditions must be maintained.

        2. John H Woods

          Re: Habitual glasses wearer

          " I’m 54 but have the heart of a 30 years old"

          That's nothing, I'm 52 and have the body of a 20 year old. Just hoping my wife doesn't volunteer us for "Love Your Garden"

        3. Rich 11 Silver badge

          Re: Habitual glasses wearer

          I’m 54 but have the heart of a 30 years old

          Jammy bastard. I'm 55 and I only have the heart of a 40 year old. I think Mephistopheles stiffed me, or maybe I didn't sacrifice the right number of goats. How many did you slaughter?

          1. Intractable Potsherd Silver badge

            Re: Habitual glasses wearer

            Re: jammy bastard. Given what Muscleguy has said he does for a living, I suspect he's grown it himself!

          2. Unicornpiss Silver badge
            Pint

            Re: Habitual glasses wearer

            My heart's okay.. at least as far as I know. Though they might look at my liver and go Tsk, Tsk..

        4. batfink Silver badge

          Re: Habitual glasses wearer

          What did you do with the rest of the body?

        5. Evil Auditor Silver badge
          Devil

          Re: Habitual glasses wearer

          ...am a registered organ donor and have kept my organs in good nick. I’m 54 but have the heart of a 30 years old...

          Indeed better you wear a dog tag. Cause with your donor material body it might be no accident when the 42 bus hits you.

        6. Jason Bloomberg Silver badge
          Joke

          Re: Habitual glasses wearer

          It has my full name and DoB, my wife’s phone #, my NHS # and my blood group.

          Me too! No worries now. Except over the mugger who is now pretending to be me.

        7. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Habitual glasses wearer

          >>If you are worried about your body being IDed get yourself an ID tag.

          If one is that worried about one's corpse being identified then why not resort to a tattoo and be done with.

          1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

            Re: Habitual glasses wearer

            Depending on the circumstances that might be no more useful than Dabsy's glasses.

            Best rely on good dental work and hope your skull doesn't get damaged.

        8. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Habitual glasses wearer

          "I’m 54 but have the heart of a 30 years old"

          Jeffrey Dahmer's alive?

        9. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

          Re: Habitual glasses wearer

          med alert bracelets

          I wear one of these - largely so, when they scrape me up off the road, they know not to risk giving my medication-soaked bits to anyone..

          (I do carry a body-donor card but, since they won't even take my blood due to the medication I've been on for 20 years, I suspect that any bits they might take[1] will purely get used for medical research..Which is fine - at least I'll be more useful in death than I was alive..)

          [1] Maybe corneas will be OK.

      4. Franco Silver badge

        Re: Habitual glasses wearer

        "I also considered the unpleasant scenario of being killed during international travel and the challenge of identifying my body until someone found a pair of glasses to shove on my dead face."

        That's why you should be wearing your 24 carat gold sticker on your head

      5. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: Habitual glasses wearer

        "I also considered the unpleasant scenario of being killed during international travel and the challenge of identifying my body until someone found a pair of glasses to shove on my dead face."

        Depending on circumstances glasses might be the least of their difficulties.

      6. Trixr Bronze badge

        Re: Habitual glasses wearer

        Not to be *that* person, but this is the wording in the piece:

        " The wearing of glasses (or indeed hats, false moustaches or Ziggy Stardust makeup) in passport photos is forbidden and so the recognition systems struggle if you fail to remove them during checks."

        So, as written, it's not correct.

        But yes, of course, if you have your pic taken with or without glasses and then present yourself to the scanners in the opposite state, they will struggle.

        (I've just realised I've rececent got myself very different frames to the specs I was wearing in my last passport photos, and now I'm kicking myself)

    3. MrMerrymaker Bronze badge

      I renewed my passport 2 months ago and the guidelines explicitly stated no glasses (and I am a habitual glasses wearer)

      1. Alister Silver badge

        Fair enough. Last time I renewed mine (2 years ago?) there was no such restriction.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        >>I renewed my passport 2 months ago and the guidelines explicitly stated no glasses

        https://www.gov.uk/photos-for-passports

        "Do not wear sunglasses or tinted glasses. You can wear other glasses if you need to, but your eyes must be visible without any glare or reflection."

        Maybe you need a new eye test? ;-)

        1. Joe W Silver badge

          ... well... not everybody here on ElReg is from the UK. These rules do differ from country to country (and maybe year to year).

          1. Trixr Bronze badge

            In the 3 countries whose passport requirements I'm familiar with (IE, NZ and AU), you may wear your regular eyeglasses if there is no glare from them in the photo.

        2. Robert Sneddon

          No-glare glasses

          The "without any glare or reflection" bit is a problem if you wear glasses while having your photo taken, but they need to know the colour of your eyes for the biometrics system. Tinted contact lenses are probably on the "don't be a smart-alec" list too.

          I unscrewed the sides of my metal-framed glasses and temporarily removed the lenses before taking the picture I used for my passport renewal application a couple of years ago. No glare, no rejection by the passport folks. Win.

        3. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

          Maybe you need a new eye test? ;-)

          I'd love one but I suspect that the results will be the same as the annual eye tests that I've had for the last 50 years..

    4. Stork Silver badge

      What if you had a moustache when getting the passport but then decided it was daft and shaved it off?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Once upon a time I set a goal of no haircuts or beard trims in the year leading up to my drivers license renewal with the result my drivers license photo looks like a homeless guy.

        (by such little projects I keep myself amused)

        - and then I had my passport renewed with the same look.

    5. Pier Reviewer

      The wearing of glasses in your passport photo is permitted. The wearing of glasses when standing in front of the retarded “eGate” *is* forbidden. Makes it pretty hard when you can’t see past the end of your nose sans specs - I’d the machine shows a message not only can I not read it, chances are I don’t even know it’s there :/

      Been through far too many of those things this week. The ones on the continent seemed better. The UK one coming back was awful.

      1. A K Stiles Silver badge

        Have a friend who is registered blind - Can see a bit to read with thick glasses and had this issue in the automated gate - did the initial present passport bit to get in the gate, then as she stepped in to the booth the host shouted at her that she had to take her glasses off, and then proceeded to shout at her that she had to follow the instructions and look at the specific spot indicated, that she now can't read or see as she's not wearing her glasses...

        Meanwhile, I've gone all the way through a booth keeping my own specs on (subtler frames) without any issues as the wonk was too busy shouting at my friend to notice me.

        I've also had the experience somewhere of the instructions saying to remove glasses, but it said something like "read through and follow all of these instructions" and finished with "now look at the big bright spot and remove any glasses, when the light goes out you may put glasses back on and proceed through the exit" which all seemed eminently sensible!

        1. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

          and look at the specific spot indicated

          I had this issue with a locum optician - he asked me to look at a specific letter on the chart while he was examining my bare eyeballs.

          He was a bit put out when I asked which of the many graish smears on the white smear he was talking about. Then he looked at my records and went "oh".

          After that he stuck to saying things like "look at the bright light" and "look top left". Which I can generally manage.

      2. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

        the machine shows a message not only can I not read it, chances are I don’t even know it’s there :/

        Fortunately I have two solutions for this problem, having a Seeing-Eye Wife and not travelling abroad. The latter is mostly because of said SEW - she's really, really not a fan of travel.

        Also because our previous pet sitters (my parents) have the bad taste to expire. I mean - don't they care about our lack of holidays?

        And no, we're not about to try to put 7 cats and two dogs into catteries/doggeries. Not only are some of the cats impossible to catch (ex-feral farm cats that can seemingly sense when you are trying to catch them and have magical evaporative abilities) but trying to force all seven cats into the confines of a single cage would likely result in not having seven cats when we got back.. And, given that most places cost a fortune per pet, we'd be spending more on pet-boarding than on our holiday.

    6. David Shaw

      ePassport was originally a German project

      I know that as I had an ePassport reference lab, and the German ISO/IEC BSi wonk mentioned to me that they had my lab shut down, due to it "becoming too strong" wow.

      Machine Readable Travel Documents (MRTD) or more accurately the devices defined under ISO JTC-1/SC 17 "Cards and personal identification" subset WG3 "Identification cards - Machine readable travel documents" are amazing, nevertheless. They work well, tho' limited a bit by the speed of data transfer from older ISO14443 protocols.

      What always shocks me is that the actual RFID hardware, inlays, processors etc that fit onto the data page only have a two year warranty. So it's not uncommon to find that as you near the end of the decade of your individual ePass. that the flash which stores your JPG will have bit-rotted, or the 13MHz antenna might have micro-cracked - so unlike say Switzerland who moved to a 5-year replacement cycle - in UK, good luck on passing those eGates at the EOL of your ePass!

      UK until recently didn't apparently even bother checking both keys (=~ OCSP status) of the digital sig of the inlay, and still my friends from overseas report inconsistencies on the UK gates, ICAO PKD connection always up?

      It was a very interesting project to be a part of.

      1. brotherelf

        Re: ePassport was originally a German project

        Wow would I be "happy" to pay 80€ every five years for a new passport. I think the fastest way through the checks is still to go to the machine, fail the test, and then go to the counter which does not handle the normal queues but only the express lane and the rejects from the automatic machine.

        OTOH, the machine at ABZ let me in, even if it took long enough to verify the picture that I'm pretty sure that's farmed out to those companies that otherwise farm money in online games and solve captchas for spammers.

    7. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

      Umm no, not if you are a habitual glasses wearer

      Just as well since my focal distance without glasses is about 5cm in front of the tip of my nose.. (if I have to read something when I don't have my glasses on I have to close my left eye since I have to hold it too close for stereoscopic vision to work).

      Being partially-sighted sucks. Especially as you get older and presbyopia[1] kicks in..

      [1] No - nothing to do with selective blindness by the POTUS..

  2. Anonymous South African Coward Silver badge
    Pint

    Maybe I look like Jihadi McJihadface.

    Excellent.

    One for Dabbsy ---->

  3. Pascal Monett Silver badge

    Security passcodes

    Okay, maybe there is a point in requiring a passcode to call the lift, but what's the point of a passcode to actually use it ? That is not security, that is pure CIA-level paranoia. The building manager needs to remind himself that he is not managing the Pentagon. And that poor fellow (assuming he survived the ordeal) probably had a long, deep think about just how "secure" he is if he can die of a heart attack because next time the medics might not be able to get to him in time to save him.

    I'm sure he was suitably impressed when he got the building tour at the start of his life there, but if I were told that, in order to get to and from my flat, I'd have to know more codes than what I need to move around in the banks I consult for, I'd smile, say thank you for the tour and never call back.

    1. GlenP Silver badge

      Re: Security passcodes

      what's the point of a passcode to actually use it ?

      It may be the passcode for using the lift only permitted access to your floor?

      I've certainly stayed in a hotel where tapping the room card just took the lift to the relevant floor, right pain when there were 8 people all wanting different floors.

      1. Spamfast Bronze badge
        WTF?

        Re: Security passcodes

        I've certainly stayed in a hotel where tapping the room card just took the lift to the relevant floor, right pain when there were 8 people all wanting different floors.

        The implication being that you can't choose to get off on any floor other than your own.

        What a ridiculous idea. What if you're in a group, have rooms on different floors but want to meet up for a nightcap?

        Or in a residential block, what if you want to visit your neighbour on a different floor?

        And what a lovely ambience - that genuine Super Max experience!

        1. A K Stiles Silver badge

          Re: Security passcodes

          Had that in a hotel in Brisbane - tap card on reader and you can select reception, bar/restaurant and your floor only.

          At one point I missed pressing the button for my floor and only realised as the lift went past and stopped two floors later for another passenger. Solution? get out the lift and walk down the stairs which had no restrictions on access!

        2. Evil Scot

          Re: Security passcodes

          My mums Ecliptic owned Assisted living (retirement home) in the UK has this kind of policy.

          Name changed to protect the Guilty.

        3. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

          Re: Security passcodes

          different floors but want to meet up for a nightcap?

          There's this amazing modern invention that we like to call "stairs"...

    2. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

      Re: Security passcodes

      Don't French paramedics have a "fireman's key" to allow them to take total control of the lifts? Seems like a simpler solution.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Security passcodes

        Yes, but not all French lifts accept a "fireman's key"...

    3. Mike Pellatt

      Re: Security passcodes

      This was France.

      You're trying to apply logic.

      Give up now, it can only end in tears.

  4. Russell Chapman Esq.

    Passport barriers at Stansted

    Depending on time of year and time of day, there is a golden half hour where the sunlight floods through the windows and blinds the cameras of the automatic passport readers. Because the machines are blinded by the light and can't see your face, you then have to pass along to the manual check, when I know the sun is in the right position, I go through the line, skip the machines and go straight to manual check. Saves time.

    1. earl grey Silver badge
      Trollface

      Re: Passport barriers at Stansted

      Ah, blinded by the light. I know that one.

    2. Danny 14 Silver badge

      Re: Passport barriers at Stansted

      Or just travel with children. Then you have the fun of using a passport with the picture of a 9 month old with a 3 year old. Madness. Fuck the fact ive lost 4 stone since my picture in my passport and the OH has a different hair cut and colour.

      Worked in schiphol, narita, changi, dubai then got a fussy bugger in manchester. Smile politely and answer questions in normal volume in monotone. Id much rather use the auto scanners.

  5. chivo243 Silver badge
    Happy

    walking in parallel lines

    I get the same issues when traveling... French wife, child with dual nationalities, and we always get the 20 questions, and slow everybody behind us down. Sorry if you ever got stuck behind us!

    1. Muscleguy Silver badge

      Re: walking in parallel lines

      Back in the ‘90s we were on the train from Helsinki to St Petersburg. We get to the Russian border and there’s a problem. Despite putting them on the visa application form it seems the kids were not on the visa. My wife had them on her passport you see and it seems the Russians had NEVER seen a family passport before.

      Our passports disappeared into the station building and the nice Finnish guard had to go and see about them (we were not allowed off the train). Bringing two border guards on with our passports. ‘Adin, da’ I said pointing to my passport. Then I pointed to my wife’s and said ‘tre’ then showed them the relevant part. This worked and we were off with visa stamps. Good job I had learned my Russian numbers.

      I can still count to 20 in Turkish as well. A Turkish colleague made me recite them and I got the seal of approval for my pronunciation.

      1. John Presland

        Re: walking in parallel lines

        Good pronunciation of "a" rather than "o" in "adin", but it's then "dwa" and, phonetically, "tree".

  6. Pen-y-gors Silver badge

    "To me, this is no different from refusing to recognise an infirm eldster unless they throw aside their stick and walk, oh yea to the lord. Nope, sorry, I don't recognise that quadruple amputee. Turf him out of his wheelchair so I can get a better look, would you?"

    Isn't that the basis of the Dept of Work & Pensions 'fit to work' reviews?

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      > Dept of Work & Pensions 'fit to work' reviews?

      No that's just "can they cast a shadow"?

      1. Evil_Goblin

        My quadraplegic mate was asked to stand up by security so that they could search his wheelchair...

  7. Terry 6 Silver badge

    Checks

    In my youth I had a beard.

    And whenever I went through an airport ( not too often in those days) passport checks were interminable. In Yugoslavia they made me stand in front of the desk while the officer took out a long, narrow and very thick book, with dog eared, worn pages, and he leafed through this checking me against every single one.

    1. sandman

      Re: Checks

      Don't remind me. I've been through quite a few passport photos. The sequence was something like this: Chubby schoolboy (aren't you a bit young to be flying by yourself?); Total stoner (step out of the line please); Carlos the Jackal (the bastard even had the same glasses) and Serbian warlord (not helped by the fact that the background was half red and half blue, looking like I was standing in front of a flag, all I needed was an AK47). Fortunately the latest one looks at least semi-human and I get through at the same rate as most dubious travellers these days.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Checks

        I used to have a passport photo, taken when I was a student, that made me look like Richard Reid (the "shoe-bomber"). Glad I no longer have that one, although my wife still mocks me for it.

    2. MrReynolds2U

      Re: Checks

      I often get 'randomly-selected' for additional checks at airport security gates.

      To be fair I did once forget there was a screwdriver in my carry-on work bag and they only discovered it about 5 minutes into my search. I was shocked and disappointed... that my favourite screw driver they put in the bin.

  8. Dr_N Silver badge

    Health, Well-being and Unscientific Woo Event

    Why were you attending a homeopathy conference, Mr Dabbs?

    Has the French penchant for Woo begun to rub off on you?

    1. Semtex451 Silver badge
      Holmes

      Re: Health, Well-being and Unscientific Woo Event

      We demand answers, even if it was some other Unscientific Woo event.

    2. Hans Neeson-Bumpsadese Silver badge

      Re: Health, Well-being and Unscientific Woo Event

      Personally I enjoy the efficiency of homeopathy conferences. You attend for a couple of minutes but get the experience of having been there all day.

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: Health, Well-being and Unscientific Woo Event

        It sounds a bit like manglement motivation courses. You've attended for a few minutes and already feel as if you've been there all day.

      2. Dr_N Silver badge

        Re: Health, Well-being and Unscientific Woo Event

        No, you just have spend some time in a room previously occupied by a conference attendee to gain the full experience of the entire conference.

    3. the Jim bloke Silver badge
      Go

      Re: Health, Well-being and Unscientific Woo Event

      I have swum in a public pool used by a homeopathic practitioner.

      By the rules, that makes me better at homeopathy than they are...

  9. TonyJ Silver badge

    I used to fly out of and into Birmingham airport on a weekly basis some years ago.

    This was before the standardised biometrics booths - the airport had its own. However, the room where you had to go to register to use it was never on any single time I was in the airport, open, so I never had the joy or otherwise, of using it.

    I did learn very quickly though, not to hang around when I landed back in blighty - a flight from India landed just before my flight and I discovered that if I was quick out of the seat, grabbing my luggage and ran to security, I could just make it ahead of the tide of hundreds and, although many were going through the immigration section, many others weren't and ultimately they were so numerous, they inevitibably ended up causing about 90 minutes delay to get through security if you were caught behind them.

    As for arriving at security at a run*, slighly out of breath... yeah it raised eyebrows on more than one occasion until I pointed to the mass of bodies coming down the escalators and stairs :-)

    *ok more of a speedy stumble :)

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      a flight from India landed just before my flight

      Ah yes, same thing happens in SFO when a 747 from Mexico has arrived just ahead of the BA flight from Heathrow.

      1. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

        same thing happens in SFO

        Last time I was there (late 1990's) was after going on staff tickets with BA (our company, being set up by BA and some other airlines, entitled us to use BA staff standby tickets). THis was my first international flight and I made the newbie error of having some whiskies during the flight - which left me sober but with a raging migraine at the end of the flight.

        The result of which was that I wanted to commit serious violence of the overly-loud persistent and annoying PA announcements. And my wife had to take over when trying to deal with the hire car desk as they seemed to want to upsell us everything that they could and I really didn't have the processing power to deal with it - I just wanted to get out and go to our friends house and lie in a dark room for a long time. It didn't help that I hadn't taken my migraine medication with me on the basis that it had opiods in it which would have got it seized by US customs..

        Fortunately, we both survived and has a good time in San Francisco (hands-down my favourite US city) and, as a special bonus, got to see the 49ers beat New England at Candlestick Park. Slightly spoiled by the drunk yahoo sat behind us who, on discovering that we were British spent an hour trying to imitate our accents..

        (Mine is a fairly neutral North London accent. My wife's accent is pure Janner (or was at that point - it's now Plymouth/Wiltshire. Something that more than one American seemed to have problems understanding..)

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Oh, a while back I had coming through Heathrow down to a fine art (a project provided plenty arrivals to optimise the process), I think it was T2.

      They had biometric gates, and when you got your timing right it was smart left at border checks towards the biometric gates, present biometric passport whilst in position and presto - my personal record was approx 30 seconds..

      .. at which occasion I then spent 45 minutes waiting for my luggage to show up.

      Sigh.

      1. Terry 6 Silver badge

        Air travel.

        Hurry hurry wait, sit, hurry hurry wait, sit hurry, queue wait queue, wait wait wait wait.......

  10. lukewarmdog
    Windows

    Glasses

    I renewed my UK passport a couple of years ago and had forgotten the no glasses rule.

    I took my six quid photos to the passport checking service and was told "I'd take them again, without glasses, if I were you".

    If i'd insisted, i'm sure I could have had those photos sent off but it seems a bit insane to invoke a helping service and then not take the advice it gives.

    With hindsight I wonder if there was some profit sharing between the passport checking people and the phonebooth owning people.

    I have, since those photos, grown a beard and my hair. I even died my hair and beard blue to go to Iceland. I have no trouble with my passport despite these changes, as long as I remember to take my glasses off, that seems to be a key problem.

    1. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge
      Coat

      Re: Glasses

      even died my hair and beard blue to go to Iceland.

      I prefer Tesco, much less hassle.

      1. batfink Silver badge

        Re: Glasses

        I had been planning to go to Iceland in the near future, so your tip is very timely. I hadn't realised this was a requirement.

        I shall now organise some blue dye in advance.

        1. Terry 6 Silver badge

          Re: Glasses

          Better to take your own carrier bag and avoid the 5p charge.

        2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge
          Coat

          Re: Glasses

          "I shall now organise some blue dye in advance."

          It's available in plentiful supply in Scotland.

          1. TrumpSlurp the Troll Silver badge

            Re: Glasses

            Essential for any woad trip.

    2. Dr_N Silver badge

      Re: Glasses

      I renewed mine last year.

      There is no "no glasses" rule in the UK.

      Part of the biometric spec is the distance between your eye. So long as your eyes are clearly visible on the photo and not obscured by frames, shadows, reflections or tint it's fine.

      1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

        Re: Glasses

        Part of the biometric spec is the distance between your eye.

        I don't trust him, his eyes are too close together. Don't let him in the country!

        1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

          Re: Glasses

          And don't you just know that there were rounds of emails between the developer = what if they only have one eye?

          And the manager = ensure the distance between eyes field is populated and non-zero

          1. Charles 9 Silver badge

            Re: Glasses

            What did the developer eventually do? Allow for a value of "infinite" on divide by zero logic?

  11. Blockchain commentard Silver badge
    Meh

    I've a round, bald, tanned head. Guess what my passport photo looks like?

  12. Warm Braw Silver badge

    One can only imagine the associated profiling

    Elvis, as it happens, recorded the Bobby Russell song, Do You Know Who I Am??

    Though I'm not sure he had an answer. Tricky thing, identity.

  13. Chris G Silver badge

    AFR solution

    Get fid if it. All of it.

    Don't think about it or ever try to resurrect it.

    Back when I were a lad the emergency services had standard keys or info for key holders, it always seemed to work well but now everything must be enshrined into a mystical chip that is only programmd so that None Shall Pass!

  14. ifm

    I regularly see women passport control officers when flying to central and eastern europe.

    Last time I flew there was a passenger in a chicken costume. It was impressive to see the woman in passport control keep the same stony expression on her face while inspecting the travel documents for chicken man.

    1. DJV Silver badge
      Facepalm

      At least she didn't tell him to cluck off...

      1. OssianScotland Silver badge

        An Eggselent Yolk

      2. Ken Shabby Bronze badge
        Angel

        I wonder if his photo made him look like a cock.

    2. Unicornpiss Silver badge
      Coat

      Why did he need a passport?

      He was clearly just going across the road..

    3. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

      I regularly see women passport control officers when flying to central and eastern europe

      Ditto for the various Scandanavian countries I've visited. And The Netherlands.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    You should see the fun we have...

    The wife's Malaysian, a country with a few quirks.. Passports only last 5 years (thankfully they can be had in a couple of hours... HOURS I TELL YOU, so long are you're around Kuala Lumpur) and doesn't regonise dual nationality.

    Its also now more costly to move her PR status document than it is to aquire the passport.

    This leads to the fun of having to carry at last count 4 passports (only 1 of which is valid) through passport control with questions over why every damn time (it's perfectly legal but very unusual).

    More fun if she's flying with the kids and not me, since they have my surname and the wife doesn't.

    That said, a Bruneian passport always, without fail results in seeing the inside of an interview room. This is even with the diplomatic passport a friend now has... Usually its so they can show the passport to all the rest of the guards since its a country with a lower passport holding population than a large village.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: You should see the fun we have...

      Malaysia uses fingerprint biometrics and once you get to about 60, these don't work

      You get big queues of pensioners at the manual counters

    2. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

      Re: You should see the fun we have...

      having to carry at last count 4 passports

      Dad worked at a company that did business both with Israel and various Arab counties. So he (entirely unofficially but both obtained from the Passport Office after consultation) had two passports - one he used to visit Israel and the other he used to visit Arab counties (and also when he went to the Soviet Union).

      The Arab counties (and the Soviet Union) were both in the habit of refusing vis entry to people with Eretz Israel stamps in their passport.

      1. MrXavia

        Re: You should see the fun we have...

        Two passports is quite common in the UK, many business people have them if they need to travel while applying for visas to other countries.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: You should see the fun we have...

        I had twin/duplicate uk passports up until a few years ago for the Israeli reason.

        You just need a letter from work saying you travel to Israel on business.

        It's a but redundant these days as Israel doesn't stamp your passport any more.

        They just accesses your RFID chip and print out the extremely low-res biometric photo image onto a green slip with all your entry info and a barcode.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Perhaps I'm not on the database.

    Perhaps I'm not on the database that's not supposed to exist, but it does, and I'm not on it.

    Perhaps I am on THE database.

    Possibilities are extensive, given it's Friday ;)

  17. Dr Scrum Master

    Customs?

    Presenting one's passport to a Customs officer? I normally present mine to Immigration officers, unless going to somewhere that thinks I'm cargo...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Customs?

      Get back in the box with the other sheep....baaaa!

    2. Robert Sneddon

      Re: Customs?

      The Customs people at Narita airport in Japan examine your passport at the baggage inspection points when they collect the Customs declaration cards.

  18. Dave123

    It’s not what it seems...

    ‘Automated facial recognition’?!?! You’ve fallen for the techno hype. The reality is spelled out here:

    while a camera takes a picture of the traveller and an officer at a control station behind the gates checks that the image captured by the camera matches the one on the passport (facial recognition).

    https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/EPassport_gates

    So they have 1 person manning multiple gates, so the delay is that person checking the other photos before yours.

    1. Paul Hovnanian Silver badge

      Re: It’s not what it seems...

      Hmm. The least they could have done is dressed it up like the Mechanical Turk.

    2. Angus Ireland
      Boffin

      Re: It’s not what it seems...

      Have you followed the citation provided? I don't want to call the claim either way, but I think there's definitely a logical leap being made from the source material.

      The citation's linked report does state that Border Agents are expected to monitor the gates - but it also says they sometimes are run (in breach of their operating conditions) with no one monitoring. That implies to me that the meatsack is doing optional* secondary verification.

  19. Stoneshop Silver badge
    WTF?

    Vitruvian humanoid

    "Also, the picture on the packaging seems to suggest that you should affix it to the side of your head"

    It also appears to have you grow an extra pair of arms as well as legs. I'm not sure if that's supposed to impart extra health, but I expect it to bugger your clothes budget and baffle your tailor.

  20. Jan 0

    Thanks for reminding me about Kirsty Mcoll. I'd like to think that Guillermo González Nova was now a quadruple amputee and always gets turfed out of his wheelchair at passport control.

    1. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

      I had Kite playing in the car earlier this week. RIP Kirsty.

  21. Mage Silver badge
    Alert

    Imp Y Celyn from Llamedos, spelled backwards, "sod 'em all"

    Imp takes the new name "Buddy", as "Imp Y Celyn" literally means "bud of holly", and Lias starts calling himself "Cliff".

    I preferred almost anyone else to Elvis back then, especially after I was married. Certainly Buddy Holly, Roy Orbison, Gene Pitney, even Cliff.

    Many years later when we started married life the next door neighbours were Elvis fans. The anniversary of his death was bad. It was a Victorian terrace with one brick thick party wall that didn't quite reach the roof.

    1. Jonathon Green

      Re: Imp Y Celyn from Llamedos, spelled backwards, "sod 'em all"

      Hmmm... Bud of holly.

      Is that sung to the tune of Cwm Rhondda[1]?

      [1] Frequently referred to as “Bread of Heaven” by us culturally insensitive English types...

  22. Bluto Nash
    Pint

    Regardless of the technical content

    That's a rockin' little number you linked to at the end there. Cheers!

  23. D Moss Esq

    Biometrics rhymes with fails

    "Why can't passport biometrics see through my cunning disguise?", asks Dabbsy.

    Because they don't work?

    That could be the answer.

    That could explain all the problems identified in the 80 or so preceding comments on this thread.

    That might be why face recognition at the Notting Hill Festival always fails ...

    ... and in South Wales.

    But then, how come face recognition works perfectly in China?

    Or does it?

    Is it a Chinese bluff?

    (Astrology woo)

  24. FlippingGerman

    On lifts, and how to use them when you're not supposed to

    See Deviant Ollam and Howard Payne's talk on Elevator Hacking, somewhere on YouTube.

  25. DaemonProcess

    Glasses or not and e-gate technique

    Firstly I would like to say that I loved the old Iris system, it let me swan past some very long queues in under 30 seconds. However it was all too frequently blocked by people sorry eejits who had never registered to use it and expected it to magically work even though they never showed their passport to anything or anyone.

    I wear glasses all the time, this doesn't stop HMPO from insisting I take them off for the photo even though I will never appear at a booth without wearing them. I ignored the instruction and it was ok with the guy who processed my application at the office. However, very frequently the e-gates decide not to recognise me. The assistants tell me to take them off which sometimes works. Once I decided to preempt the anti-glasses dogma and took them off in the first case - it still didn't work, so when the assistant looked away I put the glasses on and hey presto it let me through. After using the e-gates nearly every week ever since they were introduced (my carbon footprint is heinous) here is my advice:

    1. Lean slightly forward so your face is closer to the camera.

    2. Look straight at the camera lens not at your own picture.

    3. Push your passport forward all the way to the stops and hold it down very very very firmly across the page.

  26. jospanner

    "Besides rounding up all those wicked Welsh Elvises, of course."

    20ft high on Blackpool promenade~

  27. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I've never had the automated gates ever work for me, no idea why but it's very frustrating

  28. Tempest
    WTF?

    Passport Photos Used For Facial Recognition? You Must Be Joking!

    My employment causes even 'large' UK passports to be filled in under a year, until I discovered a method to remove rubber stamp ink, and I used to mess around with my facial images.

    I've 'flipped' images horizontally, moved my eye pupils closer and further apart, changed the colour of my eyes, had 'droopy' eyelids, changed my nose profile - even a broken nose, but the Passport Office accepted them all, except one droopy eyelid that covered the iris. The latter was replaced by the identical image with a black (square) dot so the 'iris' could be seen. Facial hair changes are readily accepted by the P.O., as are hair colours.

    I object to the UK Government transferring my image to all and sundry. Their ersatz passport offices - in actuality VFS Global - have a chequered security history with local employees who, in some locations, are obviously agents for the host government. I always send my applications straight to the P.O.

    But why worry? After they have processed images in to two for the data pages, your image is a total distortion of you!

    Now with my ink removal chemical, my present 'large' passport, I have had 63 visas affixed and I still have many pages to use.

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