Passport officers no better at spotting fake photos

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Passport issuing officers are as bad at spotting a fake passport photo as an average person, says a study.

Security measures would be enhanced if passports carried a multitude of images of a person, said the study, indicating that your passport may soon have to make space for more of your photos than just one.

“While it might have been expected that years of training and experience would have improved passport officer performance, our study showed this was not the case,” said lead author David White from University of New South Wales.
“Passport officers were no more accurate than university students,” White added.

The Australia-based study can have implications for other countries as well.

“This level of human error in Australian passport office staff really is quite striking, and it would be reasonable to expect a similar level of performance at UK passport control,” co-researcher Rob Jenkins from University of York in Britain noted.

In one test, passport officers had to decide whether or not a photograph of an individual presented on their computer screen matched the face of a person standing in front of their desk.

It was found that on 15 percent of trials the officers decided that the photograph on their screen matched the face of the person standing in front of them, when in fact, the photograph showed an entirely different person.

In a second test, the passport officers were asked to match current face photos to images taken two years ago or to genuine photo-ID documents including passports and driving licenses.

Error rates on this task rose to 20 percent – a level of performance that was no different to a group of untrained student volunteers who were also tested.