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9 February, 2007

Break free expensive

Last month, I reported Wired's advice about disabling the RFID chips in new US passports.  It seems a similar situation applies to new UK 'ePassports' which contain biometric data stored on a smartcard chip.  Though I obviously wouldn't recommend deliberately breaking one, the National Audit Office has confirmed that a passport containing a non-functioning chip is still entirely valid as a travel document.

One is supposed to have a 'defective' passport replaced.

According to the NAO: "If failure is detected at border control, the holder will be issued with a letter advising them to contact the issuing authority. The Identity and Passport Service (IPS) will examine any faulty ePassports returned to it and, where it concludes the chip unit contains a manufacturing fault, the ePassport will be replaced free of charge."
Yet, as The Register observes, there's no incentive for an individual to comply, and a significant disincentive.
Which is where we came in. Suckers who've acted on the letter by allowing IPS to take their passport hostage will be forced to cough up for a new one, except in the unlikely event that Philips [the chip manufacturer] screwed up. So if you're handed that letter, don't act on it. And if thousands, or tens of thousands of people are handed that letter, IPS will have a problem that it's not going to be able to park with Philips.
That's the main point of this entry, but another detail approaches 'stranger than fiction' status. Though, by definition, a UK passport lasts ten years, the IPS only negotiated a two-year manufacturer's warranty from Philips. This rather implies that the chips are only expected to last that long. What happens after that? Either the cost of replacement falls on the bearer, which hardly seems reasonable, or the state (i.e. taxpayers i.e. me) can expect to cover considerable, initially unstated, additional costs.


Well, it's not like the government screws up all of it's IT projects this bad...

Posted by AKALucifer at March 11, 2007 07:15 PM
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