US names the day for biometric passports

R. A. Hettinga rah at
Wed Jul 23 11:57:45 EDT 2003


  22 July 2003 
Updated: 14:44 GMT 

The Register

US names the day for biometric passports 
By John Leyden 
22/07/2003 at 14:41 GMT 

A senior US government official has laid out
detailed plans for the timing and form of US government issued biometric

Frank Moss, deputy assistant secretary for Passport Services,
presented his organisation's plans to evolve to a new, more secure
"intelligent document" from today's paper-based passports at the Smart Card
Alliance 's Government Conference and Expo conference last week. 

goal is to begin production by October 26, 2004," Moss announced. 

plans call for the new passport books to include a contactless smart chip
based on the 14443 standard, with a minimum of 32 Kbytes of EEPROM storage.
The chip will contain a compressed full-face image for use as a biometric.
European biometric passports , by contrast, are planned to feature both
retinal and fingerprint recognition biometrics on their smart cards. 

US passports, the image and the passport information stored on the
contactless chip will be digitally signed to ensure the integrity of both
the data and the passport itself. 

With this approach "you can read a chip
and confirm its validity, but you cannot create one. That is the beauty of
public key technology," said Moss. 

The United States produces about seven
million passports per year. 

For the US Passport Services' program to move
forward successfully other countries must also agree to common
specifications, so US officials are working closely with the International
Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) to drive the process forward. There's
little doubt this is a US government initiative, fueled by post-9/11
terrorism fears, which is rapidly gaining momentum. 

Under the US Enhanced
Border Security and Visa Entry Reform Act of 2002, countries whose citizens
enjoy visa-free travel to the United States must issue passports with
biometric identifiers no later than October 26, 2004. 

Quite how effective
biometric passports will be in frustrating terrorist activity is a
completely different matter... ® 

R. A. Hettinga <mailto: rah at>
The Internet Bearer Underwriting Corporation <>
44 Farquhar Street, Boston, MA 02131 USA
"... however it may deserve respect for its usefulness and antiquity,
[predicting the end of the world] has not been found agreeable to
experience." -- Edward Gibbon, 'Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire'

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