E-Passports Tests Start At San Francisco Airport

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) said a three-month live test of the biometric e-Passports document solution will get underway this weekend at San Francisco Airport. The passport documents feature contactless chips with digital photographs containing biographic information and a biometric identifier.

In addition to the U.S., participants in the test are the Australia, New Zealand, and Singapore.

Jim Williams, director of the DHS US-VISIT unit, said the DHS is working towards putting an e-Passport reader solution in place by the fall.

Singapore, which has been in the vanguard of implementing e-Passport technology, recently joined the U.S. effort after more than 45 e-passport readers were demonstrated at an e-Passport testing event in Singapore in November. The event was supported by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), a United Nations unit.

The San Francisco test is designed in part to develop information that can be used to support countries to comply with standards set by the ICAO. An earlier DHS live test between the U.S., Australia, and New Zealand was inconclusive.

"The results of the previous test, held at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) and Sydney Airport, indicated that further testing would be beneficial to our development of a fully operational system," said Williams in a statement. "So we will conduct further testing to allow for the evaluation of new technologies."

The San Francisco test features Basic Access Control (BAC), which is aimed at preventing unauthorized reading of information from e-Passports. Some skeptics of early versions of e-Passports have said they fear RFID readers could be read by terrorists to identify U.S. citizens simply by scanning their passports on the street.

<<TechwebNews.com -- 01/16/06>>