Monday 17 October 2005, by eGovernment News
A study commissioned by the Dutch Ministry of the Interior and Kingdom Relations has raised fresh concerns over a number of technical issues related to the issuance of biometric passports.
According to the study, the results of the first biometric passport trials conducted in 2004-2005 showed that the quality of fingerprint information used in the tests was sometimes poor and that the biometric documents were less robust than the traditional passports. The quality of digital photographs was also a concern, as unclear backgrounds, insufficient contrast, and other problems such as reflection from spectacle lenses resulted in about 1.6% of photographs being unsuitable for automated biometric matching.
In addition, including fingerprints of young children and the elderly in the future Dutch e-passport may prove more difficult than expected as people have to hold on their fingers for quite a while for the procedure to be successful, the report says.
Commenting on the results of the study, Dutch Reform Minister Alexander Pechtold said the government would investigate what the situation is in the other European countries that are currently developing biometric passport programmes. Earlier this year Mr Pechtold announced that the new biometric passports would be phased in after mid-2006.
The Dutch government is not the only European government experiencing technical difficulties with the development of its biometric passport programme. In the UK, the findings of a biometrics enrolment trial, published earlier this year, revealed that biometric technologies were still not foolproof and that large-scale issuance of biometric identity and travel documents would inevitably run into some glitches. In Germany, serious concerns over the government’s biometric passport programme were voiced by security and privacy experts, parliamentary committees and by the Federal Data Protection Commissioner, who even called for a moratorium on the introduction of biometric passports in light of the still immature state of the technology and of a number of unresolved data protection issues.
According to press reports, technical difficulties have also led the Irish Government to shelve plans to introduce biometric chips into passports for the time being. The main reason for this delay, though, may be the decision by the US Administration to relax demands for the introduction of biometric-chip passports. A spokesman for the Irish department of foreign affairs said: «The position that we are aware of is that there may be an evolution in US thinking on the requirement for biometric-chip passports and that the new Irish passport, which has a very secure digitised photograph, but no biometric chip, may be accepted». Indeed on 15 June 2005 the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced that instead of having to start issuing e-passports by 26 October 2005, Visa Waiver Program (VWP) countries would only be required to produce passports with digital photographs. On that date, however, all VWP countries will also be required to present an «acceptable plan» to start issuing passports with integrated circuit chips within one year.
Source : European Communities