New U.S. Passports to Add Identity Microchip

Biometrics comes into play, even as New Jersey seeks to form legislation detailing how biometric data can be used, requested


"If you're at a ballgame or walking through an airport or railroad station, then yes, those are public places and your biometrics can be picked up by a camera," said Assemblywoman Joan Quigley, D-Hudson, who sponsored the bill. "But we want to make sure those tapes can't be sold in any way."

Quigley favors a federal law regulating the use of biometrics and hopes the New Jersey legislation will serve as a prototype.

A government that collects biometric information on its citizens needs to have a legal or regulatory agency in place to protect against profiling, Solove said.

"A lot of times it's assumed this is a good thing. Identify people? Great. Fight terrorism? Of course we want that," he said. "There's nothing inherently wrong with identifying people, but there are some consequences. If the government keeps track of where I'm going and everywhere I go, then that makes me feel less free to go where I want."

The microchip in the U.S. passport is intended only to hold written information and a photo with facial recognition technology. But the 64-kilobyte chip has plenty of extra memory, said Shannon of the consular affairs bureau.

"Look, we understand there are privacy issues. This information is going to be protected," Shannon said. "It never hurts to take the next step."