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E-Passport: RFID based passport for better privacy and security

  • Mahesh Tiwari
  • Feb 27, 2023
  • RFID
RFID Based E Passport

At a time when data privacy and security concerns have become a topic of dinner table conversations, it is heartening to see government around the world rollout e-passports.

E-passport is state’s effort to curb illegal entry into country and to improve the security of the travellers as well. 

In 2022, Indian Government proposed to rollout e-passports as part of its on-going efforts to ‘make -in-India’ and to digitize such documents, documents like Aadhar Card, Pan Card, driving license, voter ID etc. 

What is e-passport?

Typically e-passport is a RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) enabled passport which contains your personal data that can help verify your identity like name, address, biometrics like face, fingerprints etc in a RFID tag which comes with a microchip.

The RFID tag/chip which has a unique chip id is embedded in the cover page (front of back) of your passport to make it an electronic passport (e-passport).

Public Key Infrastructure (PKI) is used to authenticate the data stored on the RFID tag, which is also printed on the passport page as well. 

Use of RFID tag in passports makes it difficult and expensive to forge or temper with the data of an individual which adds to the public security.

Different countries use different biometric features in their passports which only add to the security and privacy protection levels in e-passport.

How this RFID feature in e-passport works?

The RFID technology that is employed in e-passports uses radio wave or radio frequency signals to share the data embedded in the RFID tag to a RFID reader through a small antenna.  The RFID tag that is used is typically an UHF passive RFID tag that has no battery to power itself. The tag is activated by the RF signal coming from the RFID reader (ideally, authorities will have the RFID reader that can read and decode the data inside the RFID tag) and it sends back the user data to the RFID reader for the end user.

The data inside the RFID tag is read-only and cannot be modified or forged even if the data on the passport page is duplicated.  This will help authorities know if a passport is original or a forged one.

India’s effort to go digital: Electronic Aadhar, e-PAN, E-passport

Post 2014, India is constantly updating its digital infrastructure enabling better services to Indian citizens as well as foreign investors and businesses. India has successfully created a start-up ecosystem that is based on new technologies, employing internet of things and AIDC technologies as well.

India offers an electronic aadhar card now which has removed the need to mail printed aadhar cards to individuals via post mail. It also enables people to carry their authentic aadhar card on their smart-phone as well as one can download the e-aadhar using internet and the mobile number linked to the aadhar card.

E- pan offers the same facility.

India is also likely to rollout electronic passports that come with RFID tags (read smart card technology) by the end of financial year 2022-2023 as reported by Economic Times.

India’s ministry of external affairs said, in February 2022, that the new e-passports will come with advance security features. It also said that the chip characteristics are in line with the guidelines of international civil aviation organization (ICAO), a United Nation body which prescribes the standards for travel documents.

Benefits of RFID based e-passport:

There are several benefits of employing RFID based e-passports. Some of them are listed below:

1.Preventing Forgery and image change:

e-passport will minimize passport forgery and duplication that earlier was rampant, many would change the image on the passport to duplicate.

2.Added data protection and security:

E-passports will help in saving the individuals data from being tempered with. 

3.Detecting Illegal entry:

E-passport will also prevent miscreants from entering another country illegally. It will also help border security police with illegal immigrants and refugees.

4.Better flyer experience:

E-passport will also improve customer experience at airports and Immigration desk as well.

Disclaimer: The information presented here is for general information purposes only and true to best of our understanding. Users are requested to use any information as per their own understanding and knowledge. Before using any of the information, please refer to our Privacy Policy and Terms and Conditions.

  • Created on Feb 27, 2023

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