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US Department of State Releases Rules on RFID Chips on Passports

The US Department of State will be conducting a pilot test on RFID chip-embedded passports beginning December 2005. The RFID-embedded passports, scheduled to be issued starting October 2006, are part of the US’ efforts to increase the level of internal security. The chips will contain the usual information printed in the passport, together with a digital photo.

Not surprisingly, many are concerned that their personal information will be all the more open to identify thieves via these RFID chips. As such, the US State Department has made it known that the covers of the new passports will feature an anti-skimming device to counter any casual access. Further, the US State Department mentions that a security system should be in place that will ensure that the RFID chips are only read by recognized or legitimate readers.

The new US passports are in accordance with the biometric standardization laid down by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) in 2003.

The release of RFID chip-enabled passports also coincide with the new requirements for EU citizens (who are currently allowed to enter US territory without a visa), which will be required to get a visa from October 2006 unless they carry a biometrically-enabled passport.

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