Amid warnings, US govt issues e-passports

Despite ongoing privacy concerns and legal disputes involving companies bidding on the project, the State Department plans to begin issuing smart chip-embedded passports to Americans, an Associated Press report said.

The report said not even the foiled terror plot that heightened security checks at airports nationwide threatens to delay the rollout, the agency said.

The Associated Press report further said the new US passports will include a chip that contains all the data contained in the paper version, including name, birthdate, and gender, for example, and can be read by electronic scanners at equipped airports.

The State Department says they will speed up going through customs and help enhance border security, according to the report.

Privacy groups continue to raise concerns about the security of the electronic information and a German computer security expert earlier this month demonstrated how personal information stored on the documents could be copied and transferred to another device.

But electronic cloning does not constitute a threat because the information on the chips, including the photograph, is encrypted and cannot be changed, according to the Smart Card Alliance, a New Jersey-based not-for-profit made up of government agencies and industry players.

Yet the ability to clone the information on the chips may not be the sole threat, privacy advocates argue.