UK: Home Office statement on UK "biometric" passports


A Home Office press statement on 24 March set out the next stages of so-called "biometric ePassports".

The first stage "from the end of this year" (2005) will mean that new passports (first-time, lost or stolen) "will include a chip containing a scanned image of the holder’s unique facial features" - which expressed in lay terms mean that the normal passport photo, supplied with a postal application, will be scanned and the image placed on a "chip". This is not a biometric. It is all that is required under the ICAO agreed standard (International Civil Aviation Organisation). It does not require a person to physically present themselves at a "processing centre" for "enrolment" (the compulsory taking of fingerprints and a scanned image of a person's face locating up to 1,840 unique features).

It now appears according to the press release that the process of people having to present themselves in person at a centre - in time in their millions each year - is to start "from late 2006" and then only for "all first time adult passport applicants" - that is, young people reaching the age of 18. This is euphemistically termed "face to face interviews" ("Authentication by Interview", in addition to finger-printing and "facial recognition" image a person will have to prove they are who they say they are).

The move from the long-standing application by post to everyone who wants a new passport (or to replace a lost or stolen one) having to present themselves to be "enrolled" is clearly not going to happen before 2007 at the earliest - and then will take up to 10 years for everyone to have a biometric passport.

1. The UK Passport Service 10 year plan (link)
2. An analysis of the plan by Privacy International - especially on how it relates to proposed ID Cards.


Home Office press release

UK PASSPORT SERVICE: IMPROVING PASSPORT SECURITY AND TACKLING ID FRAUD

Reference: UKPS001/2005 - Date: 24 Mar 2005 10:31

Key steps towards strengthening identity authentication of passport applicants were set out today as the UK Passport Service (UKPS) published its Corporate and Business Plans 2005-2010.

The five-year Corporate and Business Plans set out the agency’s priorities from now until 2010, as it drives forward work to tackle identity fraud by continuing to strengthen the integrity of the UK passport, deliver continued high standards of customer service, and build towards the planned national identity cards scheme.

Key to this work will be the introduction from the end of this year of biometric ‘ePassports’, which will include a chip containing a scanned image of the holder’s unique facial features, and bringing in face to face interviews for all first-time adult passport applicants from late 2006.

These changes come at a time of emerging global standards in the security of travel documents, with most western nations implementing measures to make passports more secure. The strengthened UK system will contribute to international security and law enforcement, as well as ensuring that UK citizens can travel easily around the world. They will also lay the foundations for the Government’s planned identity cards scheme - the legislation to enable the scheme is currently before Parliament.

Welcoming the publication of the plans, Home Office Minister Des Browne said:

“The UKPS plans set out how the agency will make British passports even more secure and how it will continue to provide a first-rate service to the public. This programme of work will significantly improve the integrity of the UK passport, helping to tackle fraud and ensuring that the UK remains at the forefront of the international drive to improve document security.

”These changes will also lay the foundations for the Government’s proposed national identity cards scheme – which would<

 

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