The State Department yesterday issued final rules for implementing of implantation electronic identification chips into all U.S. passports, despite continuing controversy over the security of the system and its impact on personal privacy.
The regulations mean that as of October 2006, all new and renewed U.S. passports will contain radio frequency identification chips that will include a digital photo and all other information currently printed in passports.
Over time, as older passports expire, everyone who holds a passport will get an electronic version.
Government employee and diplomatic passports will receive the chips in a pilot program beginning early next year.
In issuing the new rules, the department is matching a requirement it is imposing on visitors from several other countries. Foreigners from countries who do not need visas to enter the United States also must have the chips by next October. Such countries will be responsible for providing their citizens with passports that comply with U.S. entry requirements, reports the Washington Post.
In December, the State Department will begin issuing the electronic ID to citizens generally, and by October 2006, all U.S. passports, except emergency documents issued by U.S. embassies, will be outfitted with RFID.
The electronic passport will follow standards set by the International Civil Aviation Organization, which prescribes the use of chips and Public Key Infrastructure to protect the data, the department said. The chip will contain the name, nationality, sex, date of birth, place of birth, and digitized photograph of the holder, as well as the passport number, issue date, expiration date, and type.
Only electronic readers within inches of the chip will be able to read the data, according to the published rules. An anti-skimming material will be included in the cover and spine to diminish the threat of skimming the data from a distance farther than 10 centimeters.
To leave open the possibility of adding other biometric data, such as fingerprints or iris scans, in the future, passports will contain a 64KB chip with plenty of storage capacity. However, the department issued an assurance that before requiring any such additional data, it will give the public an opportunity to comment, informs E Week.