Biometric Passports Are a Critical Tool for National Security

The reality of today’s global environment, with the threats of terrorism, fraud, and identity theft have forced governments to ramp up their security measures. The safety of national borders has never been more important. Biometric passports have become the standard weapon as nations fight to protect their citizenry.

What is Unique about Biometric Passports?

Biometric passports, also known as e-Passports or digital passports, provide governments and individuals with a heightened level of security. Basically, the biometric passport is like two passports: paper and digital combined into one. The e-passport includes a digital signature and watermarks, making it unalterable and impossible to replicate.

All of the identification data related to the holder that is typed on the passport is duplicated in the chip. For instance, the holder’s photograph, address, full name, date of birth and other vital identity information is embedded in the chip.

Biometric passports typically also include a fingerprint, facial recognition and/or iris scan. Countries have discretion over what biometrics will be included. For instance, in Germany, e-Passports must have two fingerprints.

e-Passports issued by the U.S. and Visa Waiver program countries have an additional security feature. The data on the chip cannot be scanned illegally, meaning the passports are protected from skimming, which has become the latest way fraudsters steal personal identification.

Why is Biometrics Better?

Biometric identifiers cannot be altered or duplicated. They are unique to each individual. There is greater protection against identity theft. Biometric information stored on the passport cannot be forged. Biometrics secures the identity of the passport holder.

With a biometric passport, travelers have an easier time moving across borders. They can enter and exit much more quickly and safely. Rather than going through a manual check by a Border Patrol officer, the traveler can simply scan his or her e-Passport through a special e-Passport gate. The entire process becomes automated and much more secure.

To be fully effective there is a need for international standards and conformity. For this reason, the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) has assumed the role of standardizing and regulating the data that must be stored on the biometric chip.

Biometric passports are securing national borders, protecting the identity of citizens and improving the immigration process at airports. We can expect to continue to see technology advancements in this vital area of national security.