Passport officers’ errors in face matching

David White, Richard I Kemp, Rob Jenkins, Michael Matheson, A Mike Burton

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Abstract

Photo-ID is widely used in security settings, despite research showing that viewers find it very difficult to match unfamiliar faces. Here we test participants with specialist experience and training in the task: passport-issuing officers. First, we ask officers to compare photos to live ID-card bearers, and observe high error rates, including 14% false acceptance of ‘fraudulent’ photos. Second, we compare passport officers with a set of student participants, and find equally poor levels of accuracy in both groups. Finally, we observe that passport officers show no performance advantage over the general population on a standardised face-matching task. Across all tasks, we observe very large individual differences: while average performance of passport staff was poor, some officers performed very accurately – though this was not related to length of experience or training. We propose that improvements in security could be made by emphasising personnel selection.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere103510
Number of pages6
JournalPloS ONE
Volume9
Issue number8
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 18 Aug 2014

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White, D., Kemp, R. I., Jenkins, R., Matheson, M., & Burton, A. M. (2014). Passport officers’ errors in face matching. PloS ONE, 9(8), [e103510]. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0103510