October 25, 2005
Coming Soon: The Electronic Passport
The State Department issued final rules today mandating the introduction and use of electronic passports. The rule defines "electronic passport"
From the rule publication statements:
Passports must be globally interoperable--that is, they must
function the same way at every nation's border when they are presented.
To that end, the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) has
developed international specifications for electronic passports that
will ensure their security and global interoperability. These
specifications prescribe use of contactless smartcard chips and the
format for data carried on the chips. They also specify the use of a
form of Public Key Infrastructure (PKI) that will permit digital
signatures to protect the data from tampering. The United States (U.S.)
will follow these international specifications to ensure its electronic
passport is globally interoperable.
The personal information that will be contained in the chip is the
information on the data page of the passport--the name, nationality,
sex, date of birth, place of birth, and digitized photograph of the
passport holder. The chip will also contain information about the
passport itself--the passport number, issue date, expiration date, and
type of passport. Finally, the chip will contain coding to prevent any
digital data from being altered or removed as well as the chip's unique
ID number. This coding will be in the form of a high strength digital
signature. The contents of the data page of the traditional passport
have been established by international usage and by ICAO. The chip will
not contain home addresses, social security numbers, or other
information that might facilitate identity theft.
Note that the Department received comments from concerned citizens about the rule when it was proposed February 18, 2005 (70 FR 8305). According to the final rule statement:
We received a total of 2,335 comments on the introduction of the
electronic passport. All comments have been read, sorted, and tabulated
according to primary concerns. Comments opposing the proposed rule
primarily focus on security and/or privacy, the adequacy of Radio
Frequency Identification (RFID), technology, and religious concerns.
Specifically, concerns focused as follows: 2019 comments listed
security and/or privacy; 171 listed general objections to use of the
data chip and/or the use of RFID; 85 listed general objections to use
of the electronic passport; 52 listed general technology concerns; and
8 listed religious concerns. Overall, approximately 1% of the comments
were positive, 98.5% were negative, and .5% were neither negative nor
The comments are available for review at http://www.travel.state.gov/
, under the passport section....
Aside from the explanation of the chips to be used and what information they will contain, the rest of the notice addresses the 98.5% of negatigve comments.
A story on the subject from CNET News is here.
October 25, 2005 | Permalink
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