The Department of State is developing
an Electronic Passport that will enhance document and border
security, while facilitating international travel for U.S.
citizens. The Electronic Passport will integrate the latest
concepts in electronic document protection and readability.
The Department plans to issue the first full validity U.S.
electronic passports in December 2005. By October 2006,
all domestic passport agencies will issue electronic passports.
The new passport will combine facial recognition and contactless
chip technology. The chip, which will be embedded in the
cover of the passport, will hold exactly the same information
that is printed in the passport: name, date of birth, gender,
place of birth, dates of passport issuance and expiration,
passport number, and photo image of the bearer. A digital
signature will protect the stored data from alteration and
mitigate the threat of photo substitution.
To address concerns that the chips may be
susceptible to unauthorized reading (skimming in the industry
parlance), the Department will incorporate anti-skimming
technology in the front cover. The Department is also seriously
considering incorporating basic access control (BAC) technology
in the new passport. BAC prevents the chip from being accessed
until the passport is opened and its machine-readable zone
on the data page is read electronically. The anti-skimming
feature and BAC, when taken together, will prevent unauthorized
reading of the Electronic Passport.
The Department will provide more information
on its website at travel.state.gov
as well as Questions and Answers for the media prior to
implementation of the new passport.