Germany is switching over to the second generation of its ePassport passports, which include fingerprint biometrics. According to NXP, the supplier of the biometric chips, Germany is the first country in the world to introduce such passports.
NXP is founded by Philips and has shipped over 100 million chips so far.
The SmartMX chip in the new German ePassports supports Extended Access Control (EAC), which uses enhanced levels of security to protect the on-chip biometrics, on the basis that fingerprints are deemed more 'private' than face. And on top of that, widespread escape of fingerprints could create a pretty mess in the wonderful biometric world of the future, but the ePassport evangelists tend not to stress that point.
The German system uses encryption to protect the biometric data as it's communicated to the reader and, according to the German Interior Ministry, "achieves a security level which experts consider tamper-proof also in the future."
EAC allows reading rights to be restricted to authorized readers only, withholding access to the fingerprint data to unauthorized readers as necessary.
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Paul Mah is a writer and blogger who lives in Singapore, where he has worked for a number of years in various capacities within the IT industry. Paul enjoys tinkering with tech gadgets, smartphones, and networking devices.