Canada is set to introduce a biometric passport system patterned after U.K.-style e-passports. Starting as early as 2011, Canadian citizens will begin receiving passports embedded with chips that contain digital images and personal information, including the individual’s name, gender, date of birth, and place of birth.
Over 60 countries have e-passports, and Canada is the only member of the G7 that had not yet implemented them. Some experts have expressed concern over the adequate protection of the holder’s privacy. These concerns may have arisen due to recent research by British scientists who have uncovered weaknesses in electronic passports issued by the United States, United Kingdom, and approximately 50 other countries. The research indicates movements of individuals as they enter or exit buildings are traceable by those with adequate technology. Indeed, remote tracking of a given e-passport in real time is possible, and due to the e-passport’s radio-frequency identification, data in the passports cannot be turned off. This makes the threat persistent unless the passport is shielded in a special identity document pouch that interrupts its radio transmissions.
A biometric passport, also known as an e-passport, uses biometrics to authenticate the identity of its holder. It uses smart card technology, including a microprocessor chip embedded in the cover or center page of the passport. The passport’s information is printed on the data page of the passport and stored in the microprocessor chip. Public Key Infrastructure (PKI) is used to authenticate the data stored in the chip, making it virtually impossible to tamper with or fraudulently replicate.