It's 2007 -- the year that my passport expires. Passports last for 10 years and a lot has happened since I last renewed mine. The most significant change is the addition of an always-on radio frequency identifier (RFID) to ALL passports issued after January 1, 2007. Don't want the government -- or hackers -- to get your personal information from these chips? Read on...
There is a very short article in January's Wired Magazine about the US State Department's decision to include the tags in all passports to make it easier for officials to get all your personal information -- name, address, birth date, and so on -- lots of statistics that would be very useful in the hands of the wrong people. These new passports will have a distinctive logo on the front and the RFID tag embedded in the back cover. So -- don't want your information broadcasting throughout the world? Think twice before you decide to tamper with your passport. Be forewarned that this act is punishable by 25 years in prison (and I bet you get a tag implanted in your body there!).
However, if you are still determined to rid yourself of this tag, here are some suggestions from the magazine:
1. You could "accidently" leave your passport in your pants pocket when you launder them. The washer will disable the tag but unfortunately it will also probably ruin your passport too. They are paper-based still.
2. You could nuke your passport in the microwave. That would certainly disable the tag but, the article points out, the tag might burst into flames. A scorched patch on the back of your passport is a telltale sign that is just about guaranteed to get you a "special" customs search -- with rubber gloves...
3. The best approach they say? Grab a hammer and smash the thing. Yep, hitting the chip with a blunt object should disable it and not leave obvious tampering marks. A nonfunctional RFID tag does not invalidate your passport so it is still usable. However, again I would bet that you would be more likely to be selected for that extra scrutiny by our government folks...
I dunno -- which is worse -- having your personal information stolen and used in nefarious ways or going through the TSA searches every time you travel internationally? Or worse -- risking 25 years at a government-sponsored "vacation resort"?
There's just gotta be a better way... Wish me luck as I renew my passport!
Yours in BI success.
Posted January 8, 2007 8:24 AM
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