TELECOM Digest OnLine - Sorted: EU Needs More Time for Biometric Passports

EU Needs More Time for Biometric Passports

Marcus Didius Falco (
Wed, 30 Mar 2005 22:29:33 -0500

So much for the US government's big rush to get them done this year,
to the extent that they haven't thought out the implications of the
RFID chip (although they realize they should call it anything but
RFID, because the acronym RFID is a magnet for animosity).


EU needs more time for biometric passports BRUSSELS, Belgium (AP) The
European Union on Wednesday told the U.S. Congress the bloc needed
another year to implement new U.S. rules on secure biometric
passports, which include a computer chip with data such as a digital
photo of the passport holder.

EU justice and interior ministers had said last year they would meet
this year's Oct. 26 deadline. But only six of the 25 EU countries
Belgium, Finland, Luxembourg, Germany, Austria, and Sweden will be
ready to issue biometric passports by that date.

After Oct. 26, citizens from 27 visa-exempt countries will have to
apply for a visa or have a biometric passport.

The EU's Justice and Home Affairs Commissioner Franco Frattini wrote
on Wednesday to James Sensenbrenner, head of the U.S. House of
Representative's Judiciary Committee that although the bloc had made
substantial progress, it would require more time, until Aug. 28, 2006,
to introduce the new passports.

"Despite all the progress ... we would urge the Congress to consider a
second extension of the deadline," Frattini said in the letter. The
United States had already extended the original Oct. 26, 2004,
deadline by a year.

Frattini said the issuing of similar U.S. passports was also
experiencing "a certain slippage" due to problems in adapting the new
technology to passports. Japan also will be unable to meet the
U.S. deadline, officials said.

So-called biometric features can reduce patterns of fingerprints,
irises, voices and faces to mathematical algorithms that can be stored
on a chip or machine-readable strip. EU countries also want to include
a fingerprint on the chip.

"Despite all the progress made ... in reinforcing the security of
passports you are surely aware that critical aspects of the biometric
technology, such as data security and interoperability of reading
devices, are still being finalized," wrote Frattini.

Frattini said the EU "shares the view of the United States that more
secure travel documents are an important tool in the fight against
international crime and terrorism."

The United States is urging European countries to have new biometric
travel documents in place as part of its tighter border security
checks following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

All new U.S. passports issued by the end of 2005 are expected to have
a chip containing the holders' name, birth date and issuing office, as
well as a a photo of the holders' face. The photo is the international
standard for biometrics, but countries are free to add other
biometrics, such as fingerprints, for greater accuracy.

Also Wednesday, the EU head office released a report on the impact of
using biometrics, which said more large-scale field trials were needed
to ensure the new technology worked properly. It also urged
governments to ensure safeguards for privacy and data protection in
the use of biometric data.

Copyright 2005 The Associated Press.

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