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Monday, May 30, 2005

US biometric ID request raises ID concern in UK

The UK government plans to issue its ID card as a passport with biometric identifiers stored in a chip  and the US wants those chips to be compatible with its own scanners, raising the possibility that US agencies could have access to the ID Card database.

In 2003, it was agreed by the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) that the initial international biometric standard for passports would be facial mapping, although additional biometrics such as fingerprinting could be included.  Currently, for example, all foreign visitors entering the US have their two index fingers scanned, and a digital photograph taken before they are granted entry.  Most visitors are also required to obtain a visa.

Michael Chertoff, US Secretary of Homeland Security, last week said this the EU and US were close to a deal on the introduction of biometrics in passports for those seeking entry to the US, and urged the EU to ensure compatibility between EU and US biometric systems.  According to press reports, Chertoff has also asked the UK to consider chip compatibility in respect of the proposed UK national identity card scheme.  These decisions have been reinforced by a decision of the Council of Ministers of the European Community to introduce a common format passport for member states.  The decision of the UK government to link the ID cards with the passport means that the UK’s ID card will be compatible with international passport standards.

The US had initially set 26 October 2004 as the date by which Visa Waiver Program travellers were supposed to present a biometric passport for visa-free travel to the US, but extended it for one year when it became clear that the 27 states that are eligible for the Program including the UK would be unable to comply.  Biometric passports have been identified by governments throughout the world as a key factor in the fight against terrorism, and their implementation is being driven by the US.  “By October 26, 2004, in order for a country to remain eligible for participation in the visa waiver program its government must certify that it has a program to issue to its nationals machine-readable passports that are tamper-resistant and which incorporate biometric and authentication identifiers that satisfy the standards of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO).”

http://www.theregister.co.uk/2005/05/30/us_eu_biometric_id_compatability/

Posted on 05/30
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