Even though biometric passports have been around for a while now, not everyone entirely trusts them. Some aren’t comfortable with this level of personal information being stored in a database or are scared of potential data theft – no system is infallible, after all.
If you’re skeptical about biometric passports, read on to find out the actual benefits of the most technologically advanced passports.
First things first – what exactly is a biometric passport?
A biometric passport is also called an e-passport or a digital passport. It’s simply a traditional passport that has an embedded electronic microprocessor chip that contains biometric information like fingerprints, a digital passport photo, and a digital signature of the passport holder.
You might begin to wonder: why is so much data stored digitally? The goal is to make international travel as secure as possible, reducing the possibility of passport fraud. The chip serves as an added layer of security, enabling quicker and more reliable identification methods. With this in mind, let’s delve into the actual benefits of biometric passports.
High security for your data
Picture this: you pass through border control, your face or fingerprint is scanned and compared with the data on your passport. If it matches, you’re able to enter the country. You might begin to wonder – is this really safe for my data?
One might think that optical passports are much safer – they contain less personal data, so they must be, right? Well, data on optical passports is stored in the form of a two-line code at the base of the main passport page. While it may look like a secret code to us, for the machines, it’s clear and quick to read. Of course, this is a much safer way to store data than just storing data in the form of words on a passport, but biometric passports offer even more security.
These are the main security features of biometric passports:
- Non-traceable chip characteristics – Random chip identifiers reply to each request with a different chip number, preventing the ability to track passport chips.
- Basic Access Control (BAC) – Before the data on the chip can be read, BAC ensures that the reader provides the date of birth, the date of expiry, and the document number.
- Passive Authentication (PA) – Detects chip modifications.
- Active Authentication (AA) – Helps prevent cloning of biometric passports.
- Extended Access Control (EAC) – Typically used to protect fingerprints and iris scans.
- Shielding the chip – This prevents unauthorized reading by a shield that disables scanning when the passport cover is closed.
Lower possibility of identity theft
Biometric data is specific for each person. Think about it – unlike a signature or traditional photograph, it’s close to impossible to fake someone’s fingerprints or iris scans. Also, considering all the security measures used for biometric passports, it’s incredibly difficult to gain access to your data and even harder to duplicate it.
Moreover, biometric passports allow for automated identity verification at e-gates. This process is less prone to human error and reduces the likelihood of someone using a stolen or altered passport just because they look similar to the passport holder.
Quicker and less problematic acceptance internationally
In many countries, biometric passports are standard, making it much easier to enter with them. Of course, machine-readable passports are still accepted internationally, but in some cases, they might cause delays. Why is that?
Biometric passports are designed to streamline travel processes and provide quicker, more reliable identity verification. Automated gates at many international airports enable holders of biometric passports to go through border control more efficiently. This is mainly thanks to the RDIF (Radio Frequency Identification), which enables the reading of the biometric data stored in the passport’s chip without physical contact.
In contrast, machine-readable passports must be manually checked by an official. While the process is generally quick, it usually takes more time than the automated system, especially during peak times. Additionally, because MRPs lack the advanced security features of biometric passports, officials may need to take extra steps to confirm their authenticity, potentially causing further delays.
You don’t need to attend the visa application center!
Multiple visits to the visa application center, tiring long lines, a lot of paperwork, and all that usually during your working hours… Sounds familiar? Not for the biometric passport holders!
Did you know that visas can be digitally attached to biometric passports? This means that for most visas, you don’t need to go to the visa application center to get your passport stamped. Of course, that depends on the procedure of the visa application centers, but essentially, with a biometric passport, you don’t need physical stamps or stickers for the visas.
Biometric passports – the improvement of security and comfort
Biometric passports are an important step towards safer and more convenient travel. Thanks to advanced technology, they provide an extra layer of security compared to older types of passports, preventing fraud and making identity verification more efficient and accurate.
Next time you find yourself questioning the safety of biometric passports, remember their actual benefits. They’re not just about storing personal data digitally but about implementing technology to enhance security, streamline identification procedures, and offer a more seamless travel experience.
Article contributed by Martyna Inkielman.
About the author: Martyna Inkielman is a content writer at PhotoAiD, a service that allows you to take a passport photo at home. She enjoys writing about traveling and social media. In her free time, Martyna can be found exploring new cuisines, painting, or taking analog photos.