Wireless passport to broadcast your identity

January 1, 2008

Wireless passport to broadcast your identity

No one likes waiting in line to cross border checkpoints, but will new wireless passports keep your identity safe?

The federal government is trying to reduce the amount of time it takes to cross the border at sea and land checkpoints.

By using the wireless passports, travelers will be able to verify their identity while still in line and can then be waved through.

The wireless passports will be available soon, and can be read wirelessly from up to 20 feet away, according to the Washington Post.

There will be two versions of the card, one for under $50 and the other will be just under $100. The cheaper model will broadcast wireless information twenty times farther, making it easier for hackers to pick up your information from a distance than the more expensive version.

To protect personal information, the government said that “the chip will contain a unique identifying number linked to information in a secure government database but not to names, Social Security numbers or other personal information.”

The underlying RFID technology is typically used to track goods as they move through the supply chain. Wal-Mart uses RFID to track much of its inventory.

Fueling the tension is an underlying concern from privacy advocates that their broadcasted personal information would become the target for phishers looking to make some fast cash using someone else’s identity.

Though these wireless passports are getting some attention now, the government has been working on rolling them out for a while now.

The U.S. Department of State writes “. . . equipped with a contactless chip that stores the passport holder’s biographic information and digital photograph, an e-Passport securely identifies the bearer, defends against identity theft, protects privacy, and impedes individuals attempting to travel using fraudulent documents. These passports can be identified by the international e-Passport symbol on their cover. The United States began issuing e-Passports to American citizens in August 2006.”

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