Wednesday, 18 March 2009

"All Things Considered" on RFID chips in passports

Today’s edition of “All Things Considered” includes a puff piece on e-passports with embedded RFID chips, based entirely on government propaganda. They quoted not a single critic of RFID chips in passports or other travel and identity documents, even though members of the public who submitted comments on the proposal to embed RFID chips in passports were overwhelmingly opposed to RFID passports as a government-imposed security vulnerability.

I’ve sent NPR the following response and rebuttal to their story. If you think this deserves more balanced and skeptical coverage — now and when they revisit related issues in the future — I encourage you to let them know .

It’s unfortunate that you reported these claims so uncritically, relying on the press spokesperson for ICAO without seeking out or noting opposing views or alternate interpretations.

Contrary to the claim in your subhead, “A Big Advance In Border Security”, e-passports create a huge security vulnerability by broadcasting personal information about the passpoort holder to anyone with an off-the-shelf RFID reader within range, as has been widely discussed and publicly demonstrated.

The encryption scheme has already been cracked , and the globally unique identifying number in the chip is transmitted in the clear, making it possible to use e-passports for secret surveillance and tracking without even bothering to decrypt the rest of the data.

RFID passports were adopted by ICAO under heavy pressure from the USA, not because they enhance security but in spite of their known security vulnerabilities, and because they facilitate surveillance and logging of the movements of travellers, as was openly discussed at ICAO meetings on e-passports that I attended.

Edward Hasbrouck
San Francisco

Link | Posted by Edward on Wednesday, 18 March 2009, 16:49 ( 4:49 PM)

Well, the RFID in the federal passport is not great but way better than what they are putting into the new PASScards and Enhanced Drivers Licenses. So many private companies are going to piggyback off of that new federal ID number they assign to people. And who would want to travel to Mexico now with one of those? Nothing like your wallet broacasting "kidnap me"

Posted by: Anonymous, 20 March 2009, 10:59 (10:59 AM)
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