UK: Biometric passports will do little to stop terrorism

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The Chief Executive of the UK Passport Service, Bernard Herdan, in an interview with the Financial Times (29.6.05). claimed that new biometric passports could help tackle organised crime and "illegal immigration" but when it comes to terrorism then:

"Terrorism is less quantifiable. It is less evident that tougher passport standards are going to prevent terrorism"

Mr Herdan spelt out how the UK biometric passport system is going to "roll-out". By July 2006 all new passports (mainly for those reaching 18 years old) will a biometric image taken by a facial recognition system which plots up to 1,840 unique features on a person's face. Errors with facial recognition systems can result from facial expressions (please don't "smile") and the lighting conditions. Finger-prints will not be taken until 2008.

At the moment 6 million passports are issued every year (new and replacement). Under the new system all applicants will have to go to one of seventy "enrolment centres" to be interviewed for about ten minutes for their identity to be established - questions on previous addresses and schools attended will be asked.

The Passport Service will move from 600,000 being interviewed by the end of 2006 to "more like" 4.5 million by the end of 2008 leading to:

"an era when everyone will have to come in person to get finger-printed"

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