New statistics released by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) say that nearly 100 countries around the globe are now issuing biometric e-passports.
The ICAO is a United Nations agency that oversees international air travel. Its latest report shows not only that 93 out of 193 U.N. member states are currently issuing e-passports, but also that 21 additional countries are set to issue these passports over the course of the next four years.
Electronic passports contain a small electronic chip – an RFID chip – embedded in the cover that contains key information about the passport carrier such as their name, gender, date of birth and a digital photograph of the carrier. Some electronic passports contain biometric information as well and require digital confirmation of physical attributes such as fingerprints and iris patterns.
“Forty-five of the e-passport issuing states store both fingerprint and facial data on
their documents, while 34 store only the facial data,” reported Secure ID News.
According to the ICAO’s research, the US provides the largest amount of electronic passports (72 million) and the UK is the second largest issuer (27 million). However, projections assembled by Acuity Market Intelligence say that the Asia Pacific region is projected to issue 55 million documents in 2014 alone, representing 42 per cent of the total global share.
While the global numbers are fast increasing, the ICAO also reports that only 15 countries are using Automated Border Crossing systems, which facilitates travel through e-gates at airports. Out of those 15, only six use heightened biometrics such as facial and fingerprint scans. In addition to this, only eight countries – US, UK, Singapore, Portugal, New Zealand, Japan, Indonesia and Germany – read e-passports at airports and border crossings.
Another research group, IMS Research, predicts that within five years 90 per cent of passports holders will be using e-passports.
Alex Green, author of an IMS report titled Electronic Government and Health Care ID Cards says by 2014 “the majority of passports being issued will also include additional biometric data such as one or more fingerprints, iris scans, etc.”