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IP: Tracking: Plastic Passports w/Biometric Confirmation of ID

From: [email protected]
Subject: IP: Tracking: Plastic Passports w/Biometric Confirmation of ID
Date: Sun, 18 Oct 1998 10:01:41 -0500
To: [email protected]

Source:  London Telegraph

Credit card plastic passport to be issued within two years
 By David Bamber, Home Affairs Correspondent 

 A NEW credit card size passport which can be inserted in a computer
scanner on arrival in another country will be issued to British travellers
within two years.

 Trials are expected to begin soon of the system which allows passengers to
bypass traditional immigration officials. When entering a country
travellers would insert their plastic passport in a card reader and hold
their hands to a screen to check palm prints. Both would be linked to a
database containing travellers' details. The process would take 15 seconds
and make lengthy airport queues a thing of the past. A prototype card with
a digital photograph of the holder has already been developed.

 Passport Agency officials have been in discussions with the computer giant
IBM about their Fastgate card system which has already been installed in
Bermuda, a British colony. A passport agency official said: "It looks like
a credit card and it can be swiped through Customs and allow people to
enter a country without having their traditional passport examined by an
official." He said that the new prototype had a digital hologram photograph
of the holder and other special security devices which made forging them

 Last night a Home Office official confirmed that the credit card-style
passport is being developed. He said: "We have become involved in the early
stages of exploring the IBM Fastgate system." The official said that no
date has yet been set to issue the cards to the public or to start trials
at an airport in the Britain.

 But Home Office sources have revealed that a trial of the system is likely
to be carried out by installing it at a Government building so that tests
can be carried out to see if the security system can be breached.

 John Tincey, technology officer of the Immigration Service Union which
represents 2,000 staff who check passports in Britain, said his members had
been aware for some time of discussions about a computerised credit card
style system. He has compiled a report for his union which was submitted to
the Home Office.

 In it, he concluded: "The new technology will save on running costs,
reduce staff numbers and increase profits. Even the Home Office will be
unable to resist the financial advantages of the new technology."

 He added that because so many other countries will introduce credit card
style systems, Britain would either lose business because of retaining
lengthy checks on travellers, or alternatively loosen controls by
selectively abandoning checks to minimise delays. Last night he also warned
of possible job losses and the danger that the cards could be open to
counterfeiting or abuse.

 At Bermuda International Airport, the Fastgate cards were introduced in
May. Travellers use a touch screen to answer a few simple questions. The
computer checks the data against information held on computers and also
makes sure there are no arrest warrants out or requests to intercept the
traveller. Usually the process takes just 15 seconds.

 Ken Thornton, of IBM, said: "Governments improve security and service.
Airports improve competitiveness. And airlines and card issuers improve
customers service." There is even the prospect of electronic visas being
issued in the future, either as separate credit card style documents or
logged on a computer.

 Even when the credit card style passports are introduced, the traditional
paper passports will still be issued for some time because many countries
will take years to install the necessary technology.

 Copyright of Telegraph Group Limited 1998.
NOTE: In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. section 107, this material is
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