Data generated by human bodies is used by several people, every day. Such as; faces, finger prints, irises and voices for everyday tasks like, access to offices, securing financial services or government web sites. Although. The biometric data possesses the power to bring about even greater changes: national borders can be crossed by the use of digital identification without the need of carrying passports for this purpose, which can easily be tampered, lost, forged or stolen.
Growing Air Travel
Principally, the prosperity brought by the travel sector to the various nations, can’t be denied. As per the World Economic Forum (WEF), the contribution of the travel, aviation and tourism sector was of $2.3 trillion in the GDP, along with the generation of 109 million jobs vacancies for the year 2016. The forecast provided by World Travel and Tourism Council states that by 2027; around 380 million jobs will be supported by the travel sector.
The air travel experience is no more as comfortable and easy as it was back in the days, due to the inevitable crowds, higher volumes of passengers and higher prices. However, there’s still hope for speeding up the travel experience by investing in biometrics that would renew and ease the process of checking in, boarding and clearing the immigration.
Current Scenario of Biometric Passports
The E-passport consists of different security features in the electronic passport such as high security printing, and there’s an inlay that contains a micro processor and an antenna. The biometric passport or the E-passport has a chip that can be used to pass through the automated E-passport gates rather than having the passport checked by an officer of Border Force. The information printed at the data page of the passport is included in the chip as well that is the holder’s biographic information like the name, date of birth etc.
Some countries, like Germany, also have an inclusion of two fingerprints in the E-passport.
Ninety six countries currently issue e-passports while this number keeps increasing. Although the biometric passports have a range of mechanisms for protection, not all of these nations follow identical ones since a lot of them are optional mechanisms. However, some are mandatory like the Passive Authentication which is used to detect any changes that have been made on a chip in order to detect and prosecute any frauds. Similarly, the European Union has made Extended Access Control mandatory since 2009 that checks the chip’s authenticity.
The E-passports are becoming increasingly popular. As per the report of July 2018, the requirement of travelling were updated as Canada added fingerprints and Argentina announced the past summer that it would be upgrading the ICAO biometric passport of the country. The announcement also quoted that these biometric passports intend to bring improvement in security, while reducing costs and enhancing the reliability of reading data specifically at the border control points.
The initial series of benefits are already evident to the airports where the system has been integrated with biometric solutions, along with the potential of further possibilities and advancements in the horizon. For instance, increasing the efficiency through in-motion biometrics that could identify the travelers, without having them stop for getting the identity checked. The process can potentially transform the travel experience through usage of biometrics making their access faster, lessening the friction, basically having replaced the contemporary slow process.
The transformation wouldn’t be cheap. A study carried out by U.S General Accounting Office in year 2002, concluded that the issuance of passports along with biometrics including finger print recognition had an initial cost of $4.49 billion along with a recurring annual cost of $1.57 billion.
The breakup of the above mentioned cost would be covering engineering of system, managing, developing, and installing the program with required training, biometric hardware, and creating separate space at embassies and consulates.
Whereas, the costs to issue bio metric passports that go beyond the basic, and have iris, facial and fingerprint recognition is estimated for the U.S to be $8.76 billion with a recurring cost of $2.37 billion annually.
Since these multi modal passports examine multiple factors for identity verification, they have lesser chances of being faked.Along with the cost related implications, there are some other issuers hindering biometrics. The concern raised by privacy advocates in that these passports would provides the government with an access to tracking the citizens and their sensitive information can be obtained.
The research is being carried out on increasing border safety by biometric usage, since the fake passports or blurred pictures have been encountered by agents of government at immigration counters. While recently, government has found some incentive for considering the enormous investment in this new and efficient technology.
In the emerging time, government is facing higher pressure to improve control and safety at the borders of U.S, United Kingdom and Spain due to the terrorist attacks.
Along with the several pros, the digital passports will come with their cons like the traditional passports. The feel of national pride that accompanies the physical passports, considering them a travelling identity’s part for many, can’t be replaced by the body scan.
While some drawbacks having greater importance may include the safety concerns regarding storage of data in biometric passport systems. For instance, how secure they really are, how much trust the individual have on the government regarding their private data and how much control they posses over it.
It is argued by security experts that the biometrics passports would help save the time of authorities in examining legal valid travelers while focusing on the identification of criminal or any undesirables. Australian government has announced a trial scheme for the testing of advanced E-passports that include facial, fingerprint and iris recognition.
However, the problem prevails, that the scientists may not have enough time to identify the shortcoming if the technology is brought to the market too soon. Which means the government might not be able to take the adequate technological and legislative measures to deal with the risks.