Letters: Fears of biometric identity blunders

Letters: The Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman, Nick Clegg, who is demanding a recall, clearly does not understand much about passport security (Recall demand after cloning of new biometric passports, November 17).

The Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman, Nick Clegg, who is demanding a recall, clearly does not understand much about passport security (Recall demand after cloning of new biometric passports, November 17). It is no more remarkable that the basic information on the chip can be copied than it would be for someone to photocopy the same information that you can read on the personal details page of the passport. What is important is that it is not possible to modify or manipulate any of the data without detection because the advanced encryption techniques used are highly secure. Stuck with the same photo, the copy would be of no use to an impersonator.

The introduction of ePassports containing a chip increases the skills, finances and effort a forger would require. Not only must they be able to clone the passport and reproduce all of the physical security features, they must also effectively recreate the method used to secure the chip into the passport. It is not possible to change a chip in the passport without detection.

The British ePassport has been introduced to internationally agreed technical standards, and is one of the most secure in the world. In combination with enhanced background checks on applicant data and face-to-face interviews, this will deliver a step change in our ability to combat passport fraud and forgery.
Joan Ryan
Minister, Home Office

In his speech at September's Labour party conference, Tony Blair asserted that "... identity cards using biometric technology are not a breach of our basic rights, they are an essential part of responding to the reality of modern migration and protecting us against identity fraud".

The implications of the vulnerability of UK passports to security breaches are large and very worrying. Biometric chip and database systems are being developed for a wide range of applications globally and across Europe, including through EU projects such as the Visa Information System, for which I am rapporteur in the European parliament and which involves the storage of biometric details concerning almost 100m visa applications annually. Both privacy and security concerns are preoccupying those of us who worry about the future visions of technology that appear to be seducing governments.

The prospective counterfeiting of UK passports which the London School of Economic's Gus Hosein predicts will result from the ease of cloning ought to alarm the home secretary as well as puncture the complacency of the prime minister. They cannot rely on biometric technology as a magic wand. If they are going to be cavalier about looking after the very personal details we are all instructed to entrust to them, there will be a public backlash at some point.
Sarah Ludford MEP
Lib Dem, London

The GuardianTramp

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