Biometric Passports are the latest technology today in a world full of security threats and illegal border crossings. A biometric passport is a paper and electronic passport that has biometric information stored in it. These types of passports are also referred to as e-passports and they use a technology known as contactless smart card technology. The new passports basically contain a microprocessor that sends data out via a very small antenna to surrounding authorities to let them know and authenticate travelers.
To know if your passport, which includes many international passports, contains biometric information, there will be a logo of a rectangle with a circle inside and this represents that the technology is present inside that particular passport.
Each passport’s data is encrypted using Public Key Infrastructure (PKI) that many routers use at home which makes it very difficult and time consuming to hack.
The biometric methods that are currently stored in each card are facial recognition, fingerprints, iris and slowly starting today is retinal recognition. In the US, the passports do not contain fingerprints, but it does include personal data, and a digitized image of the photo on the passport that is available for viewing as well as facial recognition. This is very important because with the use of facial recognition, nobody can steal or copy a passport of somebody else and use that to enter the country illegally. It both protects the real passport holder and the country from illegal aliens entering for any reason including dangerous terrorist acts.
Stolen and counterfeit passports/visas were a very large problem that the US Dept of Homeland Security was facing over the last 20 years with an increase every year. With the new identifiers included in the biometric passports, the possibility that the use by terrorists or others who might represent a security risk to the US has been greatly reduced. It really is quite a wonder that these simple little passports can do such a great thing in terms on national security; they can potentially save thousands of lives in the future, all from this one single creation.
The use of biometric passports came into use after the attacks of 9/11 in 2001. This caused a massive wave of improved security features and a switch over to this standard. These passports were bundled under the Enhanced Border Security and Visa Entry Reform Act made in 2002 which appears to say that smart identity cards may be used when a visa isn’t available.
In the future, the US has been planning to use a separate check booth for citizens who use the older style passport without the security features. This would unfortunately allow for a longer wait time due to the heightened process to verify the identity of the person who is traveling; this would also serve as an incentive to upgrade your passport to the newer version, since nobody likes waiting at the airport.
Since the US believes that the use of biometric passports is not just a domestic item, but an international security improvement, many countries have since adopted the notion and more are in the process of converting to this model. In 2009, the FBI’s director traveled by private jet to Turkey to discuss with them why they had not implemented the biometric passport initiative. The FBI’s director was concerned over the use of terrorists using the loophole that turkey had by not having biometric passports which would allow them easier access inside the United States. The FBI director warned these Turkish authorities that the possibility of terrorist organizations using fake Turkish passports in their attacks is present.