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More questions than answers surround new biometric passports

New biometric Canadian passports are expected to arrive in 2011, but at this point, there remain more questions than answers…

By Evan Duggan , in Neighbourhood Watch: Canada, the U.S. and security relations , on March 23, 2010 Tags: , , ,

New biometric Canadian passports are expected to arrive in 2011, but at this point, there remain more questions than answers surrounding the new high-tech travel documents.

During the Speech from the Throne on March 3, the Conservative government repeated its intent to revive the development of .

Canadian passport
Microchips inscribed with your private information will soon reside inside your Canadian passport. (Photo courtesy of creative commons: kevin van lierop)

The new passports will include a microchip implanted into the back cover inscribed with digital versions of the holder’s personal information, and a digital identification signature revealing the origin of the passport.

The government hopes that the new high-tech travel documents will thwart illegal immigration and will protect travelers from identity fraud and tampering.

Despite the government’s expectations, a few questions remained unanswered.

How much will these cost?

Documents attained by in 2006 showed that the development costs for the new passports skyrocketed since 2003 from $99, 000 to over $2 million.

The government has yet to disclose how much each passport will cost, and it also remains unknown whether or not the lifespan of the passports will extend from five years to 10.

The of a 42-page adult passport costs $92.


In its to parliament in November 2009, the Canadian Privacy Commissioner’s Office expressed concern over privacy and the new passports.

It objected over the inclusion of digital iris scans and fingerprints and cautioned the government to watch for “function creep,” a problem that arises when digital databases stockpile private information without consent.

The federal government downplayed those concerns explaining that the digital files on the passport can be read only by specific scanners and can’t be read from a distance greater than 10 centimeters. At this point it seems that the new passports will not include iris scans or digital fingerprints.

According to the Canadian government, many other countries are now using similar technology and the new passports will be internationally respected travel documents.

A few more questions to ponder:

What happens if a new biometric passport is lost or stolen?

How will these new passports expedite the process of crossing the border?

How inscribed on the microchips?

Please feel free to share your thoughts on these new high-tech passports.


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