New E-Passport Is Patriotic, High-Tech and Ugly

The NY Times reviews the new U.S. e-passport today (if you didn't want one, apparently you're too late). It mostly focuses on how ugly the pastiche of American iconography is, but it mentions the new embedded RFID chip holding all of your biographical info and "a digital image of the passport photograph, which will facilitate the use of face recognition technology at ports-of-entry," according to the State Department's website.

While the gold bars and circle marking your passport as a magical "e-passport" are on the front cover, the chip is embedded somewhere on the back page. To alleviate fears of skimming the chip's info, it only works within four inches of a reader—the cover contains shielding material—and the passports use Basic Access Control, which requires a printed PIN to read the chip, which seems like a pretty good idea.

That said, no one can skim my plain paper passport, which is thankfully good for another seven years.

Stars and Stripes, Wrapped in the Same Old Blue [NYT]
The U.S. Electronic Passport [State Department]