http://www.digitaljournal.com/article/314310

Canadian ePassports — The next level of technology

Posted Nov 12, 2011 by Bryen Dunn
Passport Canada recently announced another level of security for passport holders, which makes one wonder whether it's for their benefit or the travellers. The obvious question is will it speed up the border crossing process?
Canadian Passport
Canadian Passport
Passport Canada
Passport Canada is preparing to begin issuing all new passports as electronic or ePassports. Issuance of ePassports will begin before the end of 2012, with the exact timelines to be announced at a later date.This higher-security passport will have an electronic chip embedded in the book. The chip is an extra security feature that will enhance the Canadian passport’s current security features, which include holographic images and a hidden photo of the bearer that can only be viewed under ultraviolet light.
The current Canadian passport already contains information that can be scanned. The last two lines at the bottom of page two form the machine-readable zone, which contains the passport holder’s personal information found on page two in a format that can be scanned by border agents.
The chip represents the next generation of machine-readable travel documents. Unlike the traditional machine-readable zone, which will still be found on the ePassport, the electronic chip contains the passport holder’s photo. It also contains a country-specific signature that proves the passport was issued by the Government of Canada.
Enhanced security
The addition, the electronic chip in the Canadian passport will increase security, provide greater protection against tampering and reduce the risk of fraud. This is because the chip adds more layers of identity checks within the passport, all of which must match.
The information stored on the chip is identical to the information that is visible to the naked eye on page two of the passport, as well as the information repeated in the machine-readable zone. The visible photo must match the photo stored on the chip, as well as the “ghost” photo printed in ultraviolet ink.
When the passport holder’s information and the Government of Canada’s unique signature is originally stored on the chip, the chip is electronically locked. This means that even if someone were able to tamper with the data on the chip, the chip would indicate that the lock had been broken and the fraud would be detected.
Protecting your information
The chip in the Canadian ePassport will be a proximity contactless chip that must be held within ten centimetres of the reader in order to be read. Moreover, the data on the chip cannot be accessed unless the machine-readable zone on page two has first been read, which means that the passport book must be open. It is therefore extremely unlikely that the data stored on the chip could be read without the knowledge of the passport holder.
Border authorities equipped with ePassport readers will insert the traveller’s ePassport into a scanner, which will read the machine-readable zone, thereby opening the chip so that it can be read as well. The machine also checks other security features, such as the country’s signature. Border authorities who are not equipped with ePassport readers will continue to examine travellers’ passports as they do now.
Tried and true
Some 95 countries, including the United States, the United Kingdom and France, have been using ePassports for several years now with no reported chip failures. Through a pilot project that began in January 2009, Passport Canada has already issued more than 40,000 diplomatic and special passports containing the chip, and no difficulties have been reported.
In the unlikely event that the chip cannot be read, the passport will still be valid. It will still contain all the security features of the current non-electronic Canadian passport.
A transparent process
The information stored on the chip is the same as the identification data that is visible to the naked eye on page two of the passport. The passport holder’s photo in JPEG format (the most common image format used by digital cameras) will also be included on the chip. This will enable facial recognition technology to be applied, where available, in order to further authenticate the passport holder’s identity. No additional information about the passport holder or his or her travels will be stored on the chip.
Public ePassport readers will be installed in all Passport Canada’s offices. This will allow passport holders to access the information stored on their chips to make sure it is accurate, if they wish to do so.
In accordance with the User Fees Act, Passport Canada is publishing its fee-for-service proposal. This document presents the new fees proposed to support passport services for Canadians. It also provides the rationale behind the proposed increase, context, an international comparison and financial details.
All new passport applications will now have the option of a 5 or 10 year expiration date.
Have your say
In accordance with the User Fees Act, Passport Canada is publishing its fee-for-service proposal. This document presents the new fees proposed to support passport services for Canadians. It also provides the rationale behind the proposed increase, context, an international comparison and financial details.
The public is invited to have their say about the fee-for-service proposal. Passport Canada has prepared a guide that explains how to submit input about the proposal, as well as the rights and responsibilities of all parties. Input will be accepted until Friday, November 25, 2011.
The proposal and all supporting documentation may be found here.