E-Passports Debut, And Not Everyone Is Cheering
The global deployment of electronic passports that use contactless smart card technology to carry biometric identifiers has provoked concern about security, interoperability, and cost.
The ACLU pointed out e-passports’ vulnerability to data skimming, which prompted the U.S. government to re-assess its position on basic access control that would require a passport’s data page to be opened and scanned before the contactless chip can be read, thus creating a unique cryptographic key that prevents the reading of a traveler’s passport without the traveler’s knowledge.
The addition of a metal foil to the passport book could thwart the interception of data as it is transmitted through the air between the passport and reader, but passport consultant Bill Perry says this measure could introduce problems in production and interfere with data exchanges.
Most governments will equip the passports with security measures to foil data skimming, but their goal of enhancing border security could be undone if chips and readers from different suppliers fail to communicate and travelers are held up.
There are worries that basic access control could cause unacceptable delays, although experts insist that the technology is being continuously improved. Privacy proponents also warn that e-passports will encourage the establishment of a global database of biometrics from millions of individuals, and make travelers’ personal data accessible to unethical governments.
A high price tag is another potential source of trouble, while doubts linger about the durability of the e-passports.
Abstracted by the National Law Enforcement and Corrections Technology Center(NLECTC) from Card Technology (09/05) Vol. 10, No. 9, P. 14; Davis, Donald .