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Jun 22, 2011

New gadget by US Government and what you need to know about it

In the last couple of years, State Department has started issuing E-Passports. Anyone applying or renewing their passport will now receive these technologically enhanced travel document.
E-passport has a RFID chip on its front, you can see the comparison pictures below of previous version of the passport and new. It also has more colorful pages inside.
I got one of those when I renewed my passport. It was brand spanking new with hard cover pretty pictures inside, though not of me, and the extra technology. It a cool feature that allows for easy and faster access to information and getting through passport check. However, with new technology there is also concern of digital information being a target for not so scrupulous folks. Here are some details of that the new features are and how the work for the new passports

What is an Electronic Passport?
An Electronic Passport is the same as a traditional passport with the addition of a small integrated circuit (or “chip”) embedded in the back cover. The chip stores:
- The same data visually displayed on the data page of the passport;
- A biometric identifier in the form of a digital image of the passport photograph, which will facilitate the use of face recognition technology at ports-of-entry;
- The unique chip identification number; and
- A digital signature to protect the stored data from alteration.

The special features of an Electronic Passport are:
- Securely stored biographical information and digital image that are identical to the information that is visually displayed in the passport;
- Contactless chip technology that allows the information stored in an Electronic Passport to be read by special chip readers at a close distance; and
- Digital signature technology that is used to verify the authenticity of the data stored on the chip. This technology is commonly used in credit cards and other secure documents using integrated circuits or chips.

How does the ePassport work?
The chip in the ePassport is a proximity contactless chip that must be held within ten centimetres of a reader in order to be read. Moreover, the data on the chip cannot be accessed unless the machine-readable zone on page 2 has first been read, which means that the passport book must be open. It is therefore extremely unlikely that the data stored on the chip could be read without the knowledge of the passport holder.

Border authorities equipped with ePassport readers will insert the traveller's ePassport into a scanner, which will read the machine-readable zone, thereby opening the chip so that it can be read as well. The machine also checks other security features, such as the country's signature. Border authorities who are not equipped with ePassport readers will continue to examine travellers' passports as they do now.

Will the ePassport contain any kind of tracking device?
No. The chip in the ePassport is passive, which means that it does not have a power source. It cannot transmit signals over long distances. An ePassport reader must be held within 10 centimetres of an open passport book before it can capture the information on the chip. The ONLY information that is on the chip is the information from page 2 of the passport. The chip does not transmit or record any other information.

Why good to have on a trip:
- Automated identity verification;
- Faster immigration inspections; and
- Greater border protection and security

Did You Know?:
Old version
New Version

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