All US passports will contain radio frequency identification (RFID) chips from October 2006. The Bush administration believes such a move will help improve air travel security, although the decision has angered privacy advocates.
The 64KB chips will allow officials to read the name, date and place of birth and a digital photo of the passport holder. Opponents to the move have said identity thieves could be able to use their own scanners to “snatch” the information through the air from passport holders.
The government is seeking to address this threat by including “anti-skimming” material on the cover of the passports and building encryption features into the chips that are designed to only allow official scanners to read the information.
The information could still be skimmed however when the passport was opened, and the encryption to be used is the comparatively simple Basic Access Control method.