Wired has a great article discussing the plan to use RFID microchips in American passports. While I am a fan of technology, and the speed and security improvements it often brings, I must admit that I shiver when I think of some of the stupidity that can come along with it. For example, the fact that the current plan is to use technology that would be able to read these chips remotely. At first this sounds like it could prove to be a convenient setup for traveler and customs alike as it would cut down on lines. But, the problem lies in the fact that anyone with an RFID reader (which are inexpensive, and easily available to the public) will be able to read the data held on a passport remotely. Oh, and the data isn’t encrypted. At all. So much for security and identity protection. A nice quote from the article:
> The State Department hopes the addition of the chips, which employ radio frequency identification, or RFID, technology, will make passports more secure and harder to forge, according to spokeswoman Kelly Shannon.
> “The reason we are doing this is that it simply makes passports more secure,” Shannon said. “It’s yet another layer beyond the security features we currently use to ensure the bearer is the person who was issued the passport originally.”
> But civil libertarians and some technologists say the chips are actually a boon to identity thieves, stalkers and commercial data collectors, since anyone with the proper reader can download a person’s biographical information and photo from several feet away.
> “Even if they wanted to store this info in a chip, why have a chip that can be read remotely?” asked Barry Steinhardt, who directs the American Civil Liberty Union’s Technology and Liberty program. “Why not require the passport be brought in contact with a reader so that the passport holder would know it had been captured? Americans in the know will be wrapping their passports in aluminum foil.”
Hopefully the digital signature used on the passport is truly secure, and this won’t prove an issue.