Italy: Decree to implement electronic passports containing biometric data

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- biometric data collected "will not be stored in databases"

On 17 January 2006, the decree issued by the Foreign Affairs Ministry on 25 November 2005 concerning the introduction of a new electronic passport, valid for ten years, that will include biometric data contained in RFID chips with a minimum capacity of 64Kb embedded in the cover of the document, was published in the official journal.

The chip will store facial images (digitised photos) and the fingerprint of the index finger of both hands, as well as information about the holder of the passport. It will be in "interoperable" format and contain codes to ensure the protection and to prevent the alteration of data, and to make it possible for officers from control agencies to read the data. The biometric data can only be used to verify the authenticity of the document and the holder's identity through elements that are available for comparison in instances in which passports or travel documents are required by law. Interestingly the decree also states that:

"Biometric data collected for the issuing of the passport will not be stored in databases"

This suggests that passport check will be carried out on a "one-to-one" basis (is the person presenting the passports the same as that on the document) rather than "one-to-many".

Page four of the passport, which will contain the photograph and personal details of the holder, will include data in its bottom part to make the data "machine-readable" in accordance with International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) provisions. Finally, although the decree states that the new electronic passports could start being issued in 2005 for "experimental" purposes, it also decrees that the kind of passport currently used can continue being issued until current stores run out, and that the validity of passports issued before the switch will not be affected by this decree.

Passaporto elettronico - Decreto 25 Novembre 2005
Full-text of the decree (in Italian):
Press release from the Interior ministry, 18.1.2006 (in Italian):

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