Ridge Wants Fingerprints in Passports

R.A. Hettinga rah at shipwright.com
Thu Jan 13 06:58:02 PST 2005


The New York Times
January 13, 2005

Ridge Wants Fingerprints in Passports

WASHINGTON, Jan. 12 - The United States should issue passports that include
a full set of the bearer's fingerprints, Tom Ridge, the departing secretary
of homeland security, said Wednesday. Mr. Ridge said the change would
induce foreign governments to do the same on the passports they issue.

Privacy advocates promised to fight the Ridge suggestion, in part because
it would deliver the prints of American travelers to foreign governments,
and the State Department has been cool to it as well.

Mr. Ridge, speaking at the Center for Strategic and International Studies,
a research group here, cast his comments as advice to Michael Chertoff,
chosen by President Bush on Tuesday to succeed him.

"Be aggressive, go after 10 fingerprints on the passports," Mr. Ridge said,
adding that it was "a lot easier to negotiate with your allies if you've
already done what you're asking them to do."

 Applicants for visas to visit the United States must already submit to
finger scans of both index fingers. Experts call them scans, not prints,
because the images are taken on a scanner screen, without ink.

Later this year, a 2002 law will require people whose nationality allows
them to enter this country without a visa to present machine-readable
passports that incorporate a digital photograph as biometric data.

 A spokeswoman for the State Department, Kelly Shannon, said that the
machine-readable passports the United States issues would have a computer
chip with 64 kilobytes of memory, far more than is needed for the
traveler's name, date and place of birth, passport number and a single
photo. The chip could be used for other biometric data in the future,
including an additional photo, Ms. Shannon said, adding that "the globally
interoperable, chosen biometric for travel documents" was photos.

 At the Electronic Privacy Information Center, a nonprofit group here, Marc
Rotenberg, the president, said that providing foreign governments with the
fingerprints of each American visitor would "make it easier for those
foreign governments to conduct their own investigations of U.S. citizens in
that foreign country."

R. A. Hettinga <mailto: rah at ibuc.com>
The Internet Bearer Underwriting Corporation <http://www.ibuc.com/>
44 Farquhar Street, Boston, MA 02131 USA
"... however it may deserve respect for its usefulness and antiquity,
[predicting the end of the world] has not been found agreeable to
experience." -- Edward Gibbon, 'Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire'

More information about the cypherpunks-legacy mailing list