Biometric passport

From ArticleWorld

A biometric passport is an identity document which besides the normal identification data contains a chip which has stored biometric data of the user.


A biometric passport can contain various biometric data such as : fingerprints, retinal scan and digital imaging. These are stored on an EEPROM (a standard type of smartcard with a read only memory), this type of memory has been previously used on phonecards and credit cards Three geograpic entities are now developing biometric passports: The European Union, United States and Australia. The British program has been abandoned due to the public outcry.

  • The european type will contain imaging data and fingerprints. Its main official aim is to create a document impossible to counterfeit.
  • The US type will actually have some lower security settings to avoid the big cost that new technologies inherently have, thus the passport will have a reasonable amount of biometric data, but ut will only add a reasonable 35 dollars to the production of a passport
  • The australian passport which is already being used from October 2005 only contains a digital image of the face of the bearer. This is only a part of the australian effort to ease the airport security workload as the program also will contain a face recognition technology.

The controversy

Activists all around the globe began protesting when the idea first appeared and not without reason. The memory cards are actually quite vulnerable and can be easily read using standard wireless technology so anyone with the right equipment can read and store the data. Of course the data should be encrypted, but even so a cryptographic system can still be broken with enough patience and know how. Given the fact that the future might see more data written on the chip wide scale identity theft could become common place. Also there are concerns about the high cost of the implementation of this technology. But the main concern these activists have is that the biometric system would represent the beginning of the end for the privacy. They tend to see this as the first step in creating a ”brave new world” where ”Big Brother” is always watching you.