Sunday, September 17, 2006

RFIDs Are Coming: Get Your Passport Renewed

A few months ago I read Spy Chips, a fascinating and deeply disturbing book about RFIDs, the new "spychips." RFIDs are not-- repeat, not-- similar to any tags you've seen before. (Read more at And now --- the outrage du jour-- the U.S. government wants to put them in your passport. In today's Washington Post, security expert Bruce Schneier writes:

If you have a passport, now is the time to renew it -- even if it's not set to expire anytime soon. If you don't have a passport and think you might need one, now is the time to get it. In many countries, including the United States, passports will soon be equipped with RFID chips. And you don't want one of these chips in your passport.

RFID stands for "radio-frequency identification." Passports with RFID chips store an electronic copy of the passport information: your name, a digitized picture, etc. And in the future, the chip might store fingerprints or digital visas from various countries.

By itself, this is no problem. But RFID chips don't have to be plugged in to a reader to operate. Like the chips used for automatic toll collection on roads or automatic fare collection on subways, these chips operate via proximity. The risk to you is the possibility of surreptitious access: Your passport information might be read without your knowledge or consent by a government trying to track your movements....
click here to read the rest.