Facial recognition coming in for a landing at Ottawa airport today

Facial recognition technology is coming to Ottawa's airport. The kiosks are being pitched as part of a broader effort to modernize and streamline clearance procedures at Canadian airports, and will eventually replace the more limited kiosks currently in use. (The Associated Press)

It's a sure sign that your vacation is coming to an end.

That moment when the flight attendant walks down the aisle of the plane, handing out declaration forms, as passengers scramble to find a pen.

But the days of the paper form are numbered.

Starting Monday, passengers arriving on international flights to the Ottawa airport are encouraged to use a self-serve kiosk, called a primary inspection kiosk, to speed up and streamline the arrival process.

To verify a traveller's identity, the new kiosks will a take a photo and compare it to their passport picture.

Travellers can either complete an on-screen declaration at the kiosk, or use the newly launched mobile app. Once downloaded, travellers can use it in airplane mode, allowing them to fill it out before they land.

They'd then scan their phone at a kiosk before continuing on to baggage claim.

NEXUS members will not be able to use the app, but still continue to use the NEXUS kiosks 

Passengers waiting at baggage claim on Sunday applauded any process that would cut down their wait time.

"I was just in Cuba last week and there's a lot of lineup. There's a long bus ride, there's a lineup to check in, there's a lineup for security, then you're on the flight for a while. Then finally you land and then you have to wait in line again for another hour to get through. So, if it would speed up that process, I think it would be a  idea," Tamra Segall said.

"If you hit the sun vacationers and such it can be over an hour wait to get through customs. Overall, not too bad, but anything that would speed it up...all for it," Chuck Albert added. 

Security concerns

But Customs and Immigration Union president Jean-Pierre Fortin, who represents 10,000 frontline customs and border agents, wonders why, in 2017, the government is taking humans out of the equation.

He says his officers get 18 weeks of intensive training.

"They're looking for tons of things: your attitude in general, are you nervous...It's a bunch of factors that machines will never be able to detect," he said.

"They develop these skills actually to make sure that they're stopping the people that they think there's something wrong with."

On its website, the border agency says the kiosks are secure and only store non-sensitive information.

But that's not enough for everyone.

Ian Kerr, Canada research chair in ethics, technology and law at the University of Ottawa, told CBC Radio's All in a Day the kiosks could be outfitted with sensors that function like a lie detector or be programmed with algorithms to assess whether a traveller is a potential risk.

"We have to think really carefully before we implement [technologies like this] because they can ultimately be used for things beyond the purposes that they started being used," Kerr said.

The CBSA was not available for an interview Sunday.