Saturday, 20 August 2005

ICAO standards and Chicago Convention amended to require machine-readable passports by 2010

A new “technical Standard 3.10” adopted by the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) and a parallel Amendment 19 to Annex 9 of the Chicago Convention on Internatonal Civil Aviation (one of the two main multilateral treaties governing international air transportation) took effect 11 July 2005 to require all passports issued by countries that are party to the Chicago Convention, and/or whose laws require compliance with ICAO technical standards, to include a machine-readable version of the basic passport data (name, nationality, passport number, etc.) in all passports issued on or after 1 April 2010.

ICAO’s announcement doesn’t mention what ICAO decision-making body formally adopted the new rules, when, or by what process — probably because ICAO doesn’t wants to avoid public notice of the facts that (1) ICAO decision-making meetings are closed to the public, journalists, and civil society; and (2) no representatives of government data protection authorities, and no privacy or civil liberties NGO’s, have ever been included in government or industry delegations to ICAO meetings.

The new rules are particularly problematic since many countries have adopted national laws requiring compliance with ICAO standards, effectively delegating national and international legislative authority to ICAO. I’m not a lawyer, and it’s unclear to me whether that delegation of authority is valid, or potentially subject to challenge, in the USA or other countries. Any comments on this from lawyers who read this blog would be welcome.

Although the USA has misrepresented these ICAO standards as requiring so-called electronic passports containing RFID chips, the standards in ICAO Document 9303 and its annexes (appendices) can be satisfied equally by either RFID passports or the much simpler, cheaper, and more secure optical character recognition (OCR) printing used for the machine-readable data on current USA passports.

And despite claims by the USA State Department that the machine-readable information on passports would rarely, if ever, be read and used for commercial, rather than governmental (immigration and border control) purposes, ICAO’s announcement makes clear the interest of travel companies such as airlines and airports in using government-required machine-readable passports for their own business automation of “passenger processing” (don’t you just love being “processed” when you get on an airplane?):

[A] two-day Symposium on ICAO-standard MRTDs and biometric enhancement will be held in Montréal from 29 to 30 September 2005, in conjunction with the sixteenth meeting of ICAO’s Technical Advisory Group on Machine Readable Travel Documents (TAG MRTD) scheduled to be held from 26 to 28 September 2005…. The objective is to provide essential information and encourage all States to issue either the ICAO-standard MRP or e-Passport, and operate reading systems at their border control points.

World experts involved in ICAO’s MRTD standard development programme will discuss MRTDs as a means of processing airline passengers with increasing speed, efficiency and security, as well as the operation of document and biometric reading systems at border control points. An exhibition will highlight key MRTD-related products and services.

If anyone attends this symposium (registration appears to be open to anyone, although it costs US$500), I would welcome your report.

Link | Posted by Edward on Saturday, 20 August 2005, 21:31 ( 9:31 PM)
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