31 July 2008

Americans get a new passport card

The U.S. authorities have started distributing their new wallet-sized Passport Card designed for use on land and sea journeys between the United States and Mexico, Canada, the Caribbean, and Bermuda. It is not valid for international travel by air, for which Americans will still need their blue booklet passport.

The card, which they can start using in June 2009, has an RFID chip that can be scanned by DHS, U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers, to retrieve photographs and other biographical information stored in secure government databases before the traveller reaches the inspection booth so that inspection can bespeeded up. For privacy protection, no personal information is stored on the electronic chip itself. The chip will have only a unique number pointing to a stored record contained in secure government databases.

No doubt our government will start creating & highlighting similar travel benefits into Europe for the dreaded ID card as they try to persuade us to take it up, and then force the resistant remainder to have one by changing the law and making it compulsory. (Then you can look forward to the future moments when your local friendly parking attendant and other petty officials demand your ID card.)

According to the Home Office's website "he exact format of an ID cardisn ’t yet decided but it’s likely that it will be a credit card-sized plastic card featuring the holder’s photograph and a computer chip storing basic personal information".

Which is very similar to the format of the new British biometric e-passport, which "features a new design and additional security features, including a chip containing a scanned image of the passport holder's unique features and personal details".

Spotted the difference yet...between us and the Americans?

That's right, our details will be carried on the card itself, encrypted in a 'secure' chip.

And we can all guess how secure that will be! Probably as secure as the triple-armor-plated, never-will-be-cracked, secure embedded chip used on the Oyster card and many other security cards these days.... which was hacked with great ease by a team of researchers at the Raboud University in Holland in April. (By the way, a fortnight ago a Dutch court backed their intention to publish the details of their hack on the Internet!)

It makes you want to weep!

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