Though they won’t be available to the general public until next year, Passport Canada has already issued more than 40,000 new electronic passports to diplomats and government officials.
These passports were issued as part of a pilot project that began in 2009 to test the features of Canada’s new e-passports, which, to date, have yielded no problems.
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.
The new Canadian passports will not contain most of this biometric information.
According to an article published by the CBC, the chip on the new passports will contain “the holder’s photo and a country-specific signature that proves the passport was issued by the Government of Canada.” In addition, “the visible photo must match the photo stored on the chip, as well as the ghost photo printed in ultraviolet ink.”
However, the photo on the chip will allow facial recognition software to be used at check-ins where it is available, such as at London’s Heathrow airport who is gearing up to introduce facial biometric scanners at its international flight terminals.
The chip is an additional layer in Canadian passport security, Passport Canada said.
Initial plans were to have the new e-passport ready for the public by 2010 but this summer reports suggested they could be delayed until early 2013.