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  • Is There an Electronic Chip in Your Passport?

    “While having an electronic passport chip sounds very futuristic, it’s actually a measure that will make your documentation safer and less prone to theft.”

    United States Passports that have been issued within the last few years all contain an integrated circuit within the back cover. This chip is called a radio frequency identity chip or an RFID, and it contains information about you that is also listed within the pages of your passport. The idea behind the chip is to add an additional layer of protection for your personal data. For example, if someone tries to steal your passport and tamper with information on the pages to make it match their identity, the immigration official who scanned the chip would be able to see that the person is a fraud.

    Unfortunately, the chip also opens up a new method for identity thieves to steal your information. In theory, a person with a radio frequency scanner could get the information off of your chip just by coming within a few feet of you with a particular type of scanner. However, it is important to understand that the United States Department of State has put a number of security measures in place within your passport to help ensure that this doesn’t happen.

    For example, the chip is protected by cryptographic keys that only allow authorized electronic readers to gain access to the data on the chip. Another protective measure is your passport cover. Your US passport cover contains a metallic material that blocks radio waves, so your radio frequency chip can only be read if your passport is actually open. To help protect yourself further you can purchase a radio wave blocking passport cover sold by a third-party provider. You can also wrap your passport in aluminum foil to provide additional protection against identity theft without the added cost of springing for a new cover.

    When the chip in your passport is read by an authorized scanner, they’ll have access to information contained within your passport including your photo, which they can match against a biometric identifier to determine if you are actually the person that you say you are. While this technology seems futuristic and like it may lead to privacy concerns, it’s actually a great way to protect your identity and can help make your passport safer.

    To learn more about the passport electronic chip or to obtain a new passport, contact SPS today. We can expedite your passport service and get your new documentation to you within a matter of days!

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