The United States has begun providing new, electronic passports for its citizens. State Department officials say the new passports are designed to improve border security and travel.
The new electronic passport is the same as the traditional United States passport except that it contains a small computer chip in the back cover. The chip holds the same information as normal, paper passports. This includes the person’s name, birth date, and place of birth. The State Department says the information contained on the chip can only be read using a special device at airports.
The chip also stores a computerized version of the passport photograph. This will help border security workers to identify the person pictured on the passport. Officials say the information stored on the chip will make it more difficult to illegally change information on the passport. The chip in the passport uses technology that is already commonly used in credit cards and other secure documents.
However, some privacy groups are concerned about the security of the electronic information stored in the chips. Last month, a German security expert showed how information on the passport could be copied and moved to another device.
But State Department officials say the electronic passport provides a higher level of security than the old version. They say the new passport contains materials that prevent information from being easily read off the chip.
The United States passport agency in the state of Colorado is producing the new electronic passports. Other agencies throughout the country will produce them in the coming months. However, Americans who still have the old passports will be able to use them until they are no longer in effect.