Busted: Bankers and The Global Economy

January 11, 2008

The Joy of Electronic Passports

Filed under: government, money, passport, security — Tags: , , , , , , , , — digitaleconomy @ 12:00 am

passportchip.jpgThe U.S. passport is almost ready to join the digital age. After more than three years of research, discussion and the typical indecision expected, the State Department has finalized most of the technical and logistical details of new, supposedly tamper-proof passports embedded with a smart-card chip. This “contactless smart chip and antenna” is flexible enough to embed in the cover of a standard passport booklet. These electronic issue passports have supposedly been available through the U.S. Passport Website, but have not yet entered the mainstream just yet.

Proponents of the new passport say the chip contains the holder’s personal data and digital photo and is designed to allow speedier entry at borders for most travelers. The chip’s data can’t be altered and forging passports will be virtually impossible, giving authorities a potent new anti-terrorism weapon. The idea is that this new digital passport is swiped across an electronic reader. The chip in the passport wirelessly transmits data to a customs officer’s computer screen. The e-passport relies on radio frequency identification technology (RFID). The State Department has added a metallic anti-skimming material to the passport’s cover and spine which is designed to limit retrieval of the data to within an inch of the passport.

Before the new shielding was employed, it has been noted that these chips can be easily scanned from a little as twenty feet away and cloned. Cloning a chip would suggest that faking passports will be easier, not harder. The fact that the passport chips transmit a signal is the issue instead of a more passive process. This RFID wonder chip doesn’t sound as secure as publicity blurbs say. In time, terrorists will be able to scan visitors to or from any international airport and pick them off as they choose. They can determine who is an American simply from pinging the passport chip and give them a one-gun salute where they stand. This sounds like a real convenience for airport authorities at the future expense of the passport holder. You are well aware that technology is constantly employed to overcome new technology, especially where an extreme agenda is concerned. This system requires the trust of the user. Could this passport be used for something more in the future? Let the buyer beware.

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