So I didn't even think of this - Liz did - and I've been freaked out about this for well over a year. When Liz gets her new passport next summer, she'll get one embedded with a radio frequency identification (RFID) tag.

And that's bad!

The RFID tag is a little transponder chip embedded in the passport that "securely" broadcasts biographical information - your name, date of birth, nationality, unique passport number, and any other personal information contained in the passport - to the world. Pretty much to anyone with a compatible RFID reader.

It's the same technology in Pet-ID implants, or EZPass on the turnpike. But with your secure personal information.

Of course, somewhat ironically, the US Department of State began issuing the first new passports to the public on August 14, 2006 - the day after Liz washed her old passport. (If you missed that story, see Taken to the Cleaners).

But the real question is whether the information on the chip is safe. Most experts say no. In fact, earlier in the month at the "Defcon" and "Black Hat" security conferences in Las Vegas top hackers and other internet ner-do-wells found countless ways to "skim" or hack the RFID tags.

To steal your personal information from the passport.

Apparently an even slightly opened passport would be detactable. Whether the actual data on the card can be read and unencrypted, and at what distance, is up for debate. Either way, security experts warn that the knowledge that a person is carrying a United States passport could be security breach enough.

One guy I read even said it could be possible to craft explosives that detonate only when someone holding a US passport is nearby.

A terrorist beacon of sorts.

Fun stuff.

Plus, the new passport is extremely ugly.

Yep, once Liz gets her new passport, I'm either going to microwave it, or at least make her wear a little tinfoil hat.
posted by Josh @ 1:33 PM  

Josh and Liz are two American kids who got married in August. Liz has lived in Dubai since 2003, Josh since August of 2006.

Follow along in the culture shock of being recently married and (for Josh, at least) recently transplanted to Dubai.

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