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Amsterdam airport trying out iris scan

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AMSTERDAM, Netherlands — Faster than a rubber stamp, more secure than a fingerprint, the iris scan has made its debut at Amsterdam's Schiphol Airport for priority passengers rushing through passport control.

Planned long before the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks slowed passage through airports, the iris scan is now being touted as a high-tech tool to foil passport fraud.

On Tuesday, Justice Minister Benk Korthals peered into the scanner and registered 266 traits of the color ring around the pupil of his right eye.

After a 15-minute registration when the iris data are entered onto the chip of a personal ID card, a passenger can zip through passport control by looking into the scanner for a second or two. The machine compares the structure of the iris to the code on the card.

Glasses and contact lenses are no impediment, the developers say.

Frequent fliers can sign up for the so-called Privium club, which not only allows members to bypass the lengthy line at passport control but also lets them park closer to the departure hall and use fast check-in counters.

The scan will also be used to identify airport personnel working in secure areas.

After a one-year trial, authorities will decide whether the iris scan can be used permanently and on larger scale.

Schiphol Group, the government company that owns the airport, said the iris scan was the fastest and safest form of biometrics recognition and is confident it will win approval.

"The iris doesn't change, and iris damage is rare, while a small wound on the finger can already disturb recognition" of a fingerprint, the company said.

"It goes faster, but it's also safer," said Col. Ronald Verboom of the airport police.

The software was developed in a joint project by Schiphol, the airport police and the immigration service.

Schiphol is Europe's fourth-busiest airport, with about 40 million passengers a year.