Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Australia takes the application of electronic travel documents to the next level

Since their initial rollout, RFID-enabled electronic passports have seen wide-spread adoption in the US, Europe and other countries. It is also nothing new that biometric and other data can be read off the chip by unauthorized third parties and, in some cases, also be forged.


But so far, the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) has always insisted that despite any potential security concerns there would never be any fully automated immigration process and that the manual inspection by the immigration officer would serve as last line of defense that cannot be easily fooled.

Now the Australian government has introduced just that: After conducting a multi year trial the so called “SmartGate” system is being deployed at major Australian airports. SmartGate is a fully automated immigration procedure, involving having your passport scanned at a self-service terminal and then using an automatic immigration gate employing face recognition technology to match a live picture taken on the spot against the photo stored inside your passport.


If you think about it, what’s happening in Australia is just the next logical step. After all the purpose of introducing electronic documents is, besides added security, to automate and streamline otherwise manual processes to save both time and money. But it also highlights once again the design flaws that had security experts around the world raise concerns ever since the introduction of the electronic passport.

At this point the SmartGate system is open to citizens of Australia and New Zealand aged 18 and over only, but over time the system is expected to open up to citizens of other nations as well.

Boris Wolf
VP of Business Development and Co-Founder
NeoCatena Networks, Inc.

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