Why chips in passports and ID cards are a stupid idea

A MONTH of tramping around Europe has given your correspondent a chance to see how effective the new e-passports are at border crossings. Between them, his family holds American, Japanese and British passports, each recently renewed. Unlike previous ones, the e-passports contain biometric data embedded in a radio-frequency identification (RFID) chip, along with the usual mugshot and optical bar-code.

Although all new passports conform, more or less, to standards laid down by the International Civil Aviation Organisation, each country implements the requirements somewhat differently. The new American passport sets the gold standard. It has additional features built into it that make it especially hard to counterfeit. The Japanese passport runs a close second, while the British version comes a poor third.