In a section entitled ‘Route map to ID cards’ (p28-30) of their Corporate and Business Plans 2004-2009 the UK Passport Service (UKPS) announces it is “committed to playing its full part in the delivery of the national identity card scheme”. They say, “The UKPS has, as part of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) standards process, been actively involved in defining the type of biometric to be used and, in the medium term, will incorporate a facial biometric feature within all passports issued.The UKPS is now running a pilot exercise to record a second and third biometric (fingerprint and iris scan) from a representative sample of the population, and this will help to inform both the future passport and ID card scheme and product design”
It seems the plan is to have facial biometrics in passports from 2005 and a second biometric – either a fingerprint or iris scan – on separate ‘passport cards’ from 2006. “We would expect to make an early decision on the development and implementation of the passport card and how this will evolve into the ID/travel card for UK citizens.
It is interesting that they mention the ICAO as Privacy International, the American Civil Liberties Union and 30 other privacy groups issued an open letter to the ICAO this week, urging them to cease its activities on developing biometric passports. The Groups are rightly worried that this will lead to an increase in the sharing of personal information across borders, including such data as face-scans and fingerprints, and even to national ID systems.
The ICAO is meeting this week in Cairo, Egypt, to finalize the technical specifications for the new passport standards.They have already agreed that facial recognition will be the standard biometric identifier, though countries (such as the Uk) may add fingerprints or iris scans if they wish. The standards body will vote on Friday whether to also adopt radio-frequency ID (RFID) chips into the standard.
Lets hope thew PI letter gets through to some of these people – although I’m not going to hold my breath.