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Will DHS settle on RFID for PASS card?

Opponents cite cost, privacy concerns if Homeland Security requires RFID for new land-crossing identity card.
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Written by Richard Koman on

If the Dept. of Homeland Security's proposed Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative legislation becomes law, a new form of border-crossing identity would come into the existence: the RFID-equipped PASS card, short for People Access Security Service, TechWeb reports.

The proposed legislation would require US citizens to carry passports of "other accepted documents" to travel between the US and Mexico, Canada, the Caribbean and Bermuda.

DHS hasn't yet announced its choice for the PASS technology but RFID is seen as the top contender. Through Sept. 25, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security is taking comments on the proposed legislation.

Opponents have a big problems with the RFID option. "A RFID chip may be good for tracking produce, but not good for tracking people," said Citizens Against Government Waste president Tom Schatz during a press conference. "They are costly, a threat to privacy, and there are more reasonable ways to authenticate a person's identity."

And there are of course privacy concerns. ACLU lawyer Tim Sparapani said: "A database system this massive that includes this much information, from an information technology perspective, is insecure and able to be hacked and broken into. That's a real danger to citizens and their personable privacy."

Not surprisingly, the RFID technology and contactless chip industry has been lobbying the government to use the same chip technology being embedded in passports or the national Real ID card, as in the PASS card. Technology advocates argue the card reader, for example, cannot scan the chip in the passport without the carrier's permission because of the proximity the passport must be to the reader, but those who oppose believe different.

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