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Wednesday, October 25, 2006

DHS Proposes RFID Tech Use For Border Crossings

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is proposing to expand the use of vicinity radio frequency identification (RFID) technology at U.S. ports of entry. The plan is drawing fire, however.

The vicinity RFID technology, to be compatible with the PASSport card, would allow a travel document to be read from several feet as a vehicle approaches inspection, according to DHS.

The PASSport card, part of the People Access Security Service (PASS) System, is designed to meet the specific requirements of the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI) for U.S. citizens crossing U.S. borders by land or sea.

WHTI is the U.S. government’s plan to implement a provision of the Intelligence Reform Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004, which requires citizens of the United States, Canada, Bermuda and Mexico to have a passport or other designated document that establishes the bearer’s identity and nationality to enter or re-enter the United States.

“Vicinity RFID technology will be a force multiplier for our U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers by providing them with up-front information they need to quickly make critical decisions about travelers entering or re-entering the United States,” says CBP Commissioner Ralph Basham. “The deployment of this advanced technological solution will improve public safety, national security and the integrity of the immigration process.”

DHS says that to protect the privacy of Americans who opt to use the PASSport card, no personal information will be stored or transmitted on the RFID chip on the card. The technology will transmit only a number between the card and the reader which will be matched against a DHS database. While no personally identifiable information will be transmitted, DHS says it is taking steps to help ensure that this number cannot be intercepted during transmission to an authorized reader at a port of entry.

Vicinity RFID, has been used successfully in highway toll systems across the United States, demands little of the traveler and can read multiple cards simultaneously inside a vehicle, DHS says. The vicinity RFID technology will increase the security of the border while facilitating commerce at the port of entry, it adds.

However, the SmartCard Alliance is criticizing the plan.

"Implementing a solution based on low-security supply-chain RFID technology may actually intensify the border security problem," the industry association says. "The RFID card favored by DHS can easily be read by unauthorized personnel who can obtain the individual’s unique identification number. With this number, anyone who somewhat resembles the legitimate cardholder could then spoof the system to gain entrance to the United States by programming a supply-chain tag to look like a PASS card."


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