with Lorelle and Brent VanFossen

US Passports to Get RFID Chip Implants by 2007

According to a new report from CNet News, Passports to get RFID chip implants by October 2006.

The new chip implant technology will contain information on your name, nationality, sex, date of birth, place of birth and digitial photo which can be broadcast via a tiny radio frequency ID (RFID) chip. The government is still debating but will probably add fingerprints and/or iris scans in the future, hoping to improve identification for travelers.

While some think this information is reasonable considering the threat to “national security”, others are arguing privacy threats and abuses.

Over the last year, opposition to the idea of implanting RFID chips in passports has grown amidst worries that identity thieves could snatch personal information out of the air simply by aiming a high-powered antenna at a person or a vehicle carrying a passport. Out of the 2,335 comments on the plan that were received by the State Department this year, 98.5 percent were negative. The objections mostly focused on security and privacy concern.

But the Bush administration chose to go ahead with embedding 64KB chips in future passports, citing a desire to abide by “globally interoperable” standards devised by the International Civil Aviation Organization, a United Nations agency. Other nations, including the United Kingdom and Germany, have announced similar plans.

In regulations published Tuesday, the State Department claims it has addressed privacy concerns. The chipped passports “will not permit ‘tracking’ of individuals,” the department said. “It will only permit governmental authorities to know that an individual has arrived at a port of entry–which governmental authorities already know from presentation of non-electronic passports–with greater assurance that the person who presents the passport is the legitimate holder of the passport.”

You can also read the US Government’s final ruling on this issue, called Department of State 22 CFR Part 51 – Public Notice 5208 – RIN 1400-AB93 – Electronic Passport to help you understand exactly what the government is doing.

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