Home Office signs £650m contract for passengers' Big Brother system

The travel industry is likely to have to redevelop its reservation systems and websites to the government's new e-Borders passenger screening project, but is unlikely to recover some £200m in costs from the Home Office.

The travel industry is likely to have to redevelop its reservation systems and websites to the government's new e-Borders passenger screening project, but is unlikely to recover some £200m in costs from the Home Office.

An impact assessment of the project put the travel industry's costs at £202m. A Home Office spokesman told Computer Weekly that the impact paper suggested that the industry would have to pick up "some costs".

"The government has effectively outsourced immigration to the travel industry, so we would like some of the costs back," said Danielle Chapman, manager of industry affairs at Thomsonfly, the UK's largest charter airline. Chapman has been involved in industry negotiations with government on this subject since 2003.

Chapman said the industry is waiting to see the specifcations that emerge from the project, which will require up to 53 passenger data items to be collected, stored and transmitted to border authorities before passengers embark. In some cases this will require the redevelopment of reservations systems and websites.

Chapman pointed out there will be associated running costs to capture and store the data, as well as to transmit it to the authorities. She said passengers will be encouraged to provide the data before they leave for their embarcation point. This should allow enough time for the authorities to receive the data, process it, and provide permission to travel at check-in.

She appealed for governments to agree what data they require. She said presently there are differnent needs for the UK, US, and Spain, and with Germany, Cambodia, Australia and other countries all starting to require similar data, a global standard would be helpful, she said.

The Home Office yesterday awarded a 10-year contract worth £650m to the Raytheon-led Trusted Borders consortium for a screening system to count travellers in and out of the UK using fingerprint and other biometric and biographic data.

The government will use the data to screen all visitors to the UK against immigration, customs, police and national security watch lists. Data collected will also be analysed, risk-assessed and shared between UK border agencies.

"Information captured through the e-Borders programme will help build more accurate pictures of risk in advance so that there is a better awareness of suspect passengers, travel patterns and networks," the Home Office said.

The system is expected to go live on "high risk routes" by mid 2009, with 95% of travellers covered by 2010, and 100% by 2014. A Home Office spokesman said the final 5% would include visitors such as yachts and other rarely-used routes.

e-Borders is a joint project, led by the Border and Immigration Agency in partnership with the Police, HM Revenue and Customs and UKVisas. It requires commercial carriers and owner/operators of all vessels to submit detailed passenger, service and crew data prior to their departure to and from the UK.

Other members of the consortium are Accenture, Detica, Serco, QinetiQ, Steria, Capgemini, and DAON.




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