Chips with everything

I have just renewed my passport. This one has an electronic chip and antenna embedded in it. They call it biometric but what they really mean is electronic.

According to the dictionary, biometrics is

The measurement of physical characteristics, such as fingerprints, DNA, or retinal patterns, for use in verifying the identity of individuals.

The electronic chip stores only a copy of the photo and personal details printed inside the passport. So it is no more or less biometric than my old-style passport.

Is this nomenclature a mistake? Or is it planned to add my DNA information or other physical characteristics to the chip in the future? This is a more likely explanation, particularly as the passport already contains machine-readable data in the two printed lines with chevrons (<) at the bottom. What's wrong with more secure passports? US President Obama, in his inaugural speech said

As for our common defense, we reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals.

I hope that this signified his distaste for repressive and authoritarian security measures, and his intention to cherish and foster liberty. We could do with a clear statement from the British prime minister along the same lines, but his record is not good.

Whenever there is a significant change in the way citizens are policed and their movements monitored and controlled, it is incumbent upon all of us to ask questions, to ensure that we do not risk precious freedoms being taken away.

Such questions might include

  • Are these changes necessary?
  • Are they a precursor to more radical or controversial planned changes?
  • How might they erode the rights I currently enjoy?
  • How could they be misused by some less benign future government?

You might be able to think of a few more.

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