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For the last two years, the UK Passport Service has been including various new procedures and systems to prevent identity fraud and passport fraud. In 2006, the UK has implemented biometric passports. The first facial biometric passports are scheduled to come in out in October of this year. Full production will be rolled out between February and July 2006.
The idea behind the new design is simple, to make passports harder to counterfeit and to confirm the identity of an individual. The facial biometric is taken from an applicant provided photograph, so anyone applying for a passport should bring a clear high quality photo of themselves. The facial biometrics works by mapping various features on a persons face like the distance between their eyes nose and mouth. These measurements are then digitally coded and stored on an electronic chip secured in the passport page.
In 2008, the UK passport service intends to add fingerprint identification to it’s passport system. Facial biometrics were introduced first, because of the easy implementation and minimal change required to the existing application process, especially the image capture or photo booths. In addition to facial biometrics, the chip in the UK passport stores the holder’s signature and all the personal details printed on the bio page.
Externally the new biometric passports look almost identical to their digital forerunners. They are sill readable by the same readers currently in operation in the UK. Advance digital encryption will protect the new chip from any unauthorized reading or skimming of information.
The UK is one of the first countries to implement a biometric passport system which conforms to the standards set by the Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO – which sets international standards). Current digital UK passport holders will not need to apply for a new biometric passport until their current one expires. In the change over period, both types, digital and biometric passports will be recognized internationally.
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