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South Africa Rolls Out Biometric Passports

timothy posted more than 5 years ago | from the rfids-please dept.

Privacy 60

volume4 writes "The South African Department of Home Affairs has begun rolling out security enhanced passports to new applicants from this week. A facility in Pretoria which prints the new passports was officially opened last week by the minister of home affairs, Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula. The new passports have an embedded RFID chip which stores the owner's biometric information, including personal details, a high-resolution colour photograph and fingerprint information."

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Noob Asks... (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27634123)

Why is this showing up in red?

Anonymous Coward (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27634129)

Watch out for David Spade.

adsagdsag (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27634141)

zOMG!!!!oneleeveleenn

Mixed emotions... (1)

houstonbofh (602064) | more than 5 years ago | (#27634227)

Props to being ahead of the curve on technology. Jeers for the technology they chose...

Re:Mixed emotions... (2, Insightful)

interkin3tic (1469267) | more than 5 years ago | (#27634305)

And more jeers to worrying about passports when they have an obscene HIV rate and I'm guessing not that much of a threat from terrorism. Not to say you can't do both, but until they get their HIV epidemic under control I don't know what they're doing spending money to update passports.

Re:Mixed emotions... (3, Insightful)

acooks (663747) | more than 5 years ago | (#27634439)

Who gives a crap about HIV? HIV infection can be prevented. The methods for prevention are known. Clinics provide free condoms to anyone. What more would you like them to do?

The real issues are unemployment, poverty, lack of education, racist politicians repeating the injustices of the past and crime.

The HIV infection ratio is 18.1%
The unemployment ratio is 21.7%
Literacy: 86.4%
GDP per capita: 10000 USD

https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/sf.html [cia.gov]

Re:Mixed emotions... (5, Insightful)

jabithew (1340853) | more than 5 years ago | (#27634459)

HIV infection can be prevented.

By taking a shower, according to your soon-to-be-President.

Re:Mixed emotions... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27635583)

Ugh :(

Please don't remind me.

Re:Mixed emotions... (1)

interkin3tic (1469267) | more than 5 years ago | (#27640831)

Who gives a crap about HIV? HIV infection can be prevented.

The country, which is losing a significant portion of it's population directly and having to spend lots of money dealing with the death and orphans really should give a crap. That it's so easily preventable is part of what makes the situation ridiculous and is complicating efforts to deal with unemployment and lack of education: 18% of the adult population getting sick and dying isn't very good for the economy, and all the orphans aren't going to get a very good education.

Or they could spend the money on RFID and do nothing about ANY problem they're actually facing.

Re:Mixed emotions... (1)

acooks (663747) | more than 5 years ago | (#27642203)

Am I overlooking your suggested solution, because I can't find it in your post?

If 18% of the people who are able to work die as a result of HIV/Aids, there's still 3% unemployed, impoverished, hungry mouths to feed. This is Darwin at work and doing an excellent job. Bleeding heart westerners coming to Africa (yes coming to, not going to) and meddling in affairs which they don't understand is what's causing half of the problems.

When people have 5 kids, below-minimum-wage income and you try to keep all of them alive, they all suffer and the problem grows exponentially. You have to start by establishing the western culture, before western solutions can be applied.

But I can fully understand why you would like the South African government to pay millions of USD to US drug companies to stick a "Band-Aid" over this ugly situation, instead of building infrastructure to improve the lives of the other 82% of the population.

The RFID passport is another Band-Aid and a waste of money, I agree, but it is an attempt to fix a set of problems (drug trafficking, people trafficking) that they think can be fixed. This will not work, as someone else already posted, without eliminating the corrupt officials at the dept. of home affairs...

Re:Mixed emotions... (1)

ccmay (116316) | more than 5 years ago | (#27665021)

Of course it won't work. Any nitwit with a hammer and a flat rock can disable an RFID chip.

Re:Mixed emotions... (1)

Rinkhals (930763) | more than 5 years ago | (#27642425)

Lack of education is one of the main hindrances to combating HIV and poverty for the population at large.

However the ruling party is less interested in helping it's population at large than it is about maintaining control over that population.

The ANC have seen the result of the raising of education standards in Zimbabwe and the subsequent loss of control by the ZANU-PF ruling party

ZANU-PF have managed to regain that control, largely by brutal oppression coupled with the dismantling of the education system and what should have been the cornerstone of Mugabe's legacy.

In an attempt to bring this post back On Topic, let me just conclude by saying that the Biometric data included in the new passports is more an attempt to appease the British so that they might relax current visa requirements on South African citizens rather than any significant action in the war against terror.

Re:Mixed emotions... (3, Informative)

krou (1027572) | more than 5 years ago | (#27635163)

Actually, the "terrorism" threat has more to do with the forgery of passports in SA, which will be used by terrorists abroad. It's been getting a lot easier in recent years to obtain South African passports through illicit means. The UK recently introduced new visa restrictions on South Africans because of this. This move is no doubt an attempt to try and alleviate these concerns, which of course it won't, because of the levels of corruption in the SA Department of Home Affairs.

Re:Mixed emotions... (1)

mr_musan (1075927) | more than 5 years ago | (#27643329)

thats cos its cheaper and takes 14 months less

Re:Mixed emotions... (2, Interesting)

chthonicdaemon (670385) | more than 5 years ago | (#27635411)

Unfortunately, countries don't have the luxury of being able to focus on one thing at a time. The old passports were being forged wholesale, leading to public relations problems. TFA actually mentions that SA citizens will be required to get a visa to enter the UK due to high rates of passport fraud. We can't very well sit back and say 'first, lets get this HIV thing licked, then we'll try to pick up the pieces of our foreign relations'.

Re:Mixed emotions... (1)

interkin3tic (1469267) | more than 5 years ago | (#27640839)

Unfortunately, countries don't have the luxury of being able to focus on one thing at a time.

Well then if you can't do both well (and you're not) then prevent HIV effectively and do the security thing poorly.

Re:Mixed emotions... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27637503)

and some people in the world die because they don't have food to eat. What are you doing using a computer and the internet? Shouldn't you be spending that money to help those starving people?

FUD

Re:Mixed emotions... (1)

interkin3tic (1469267) | more than 5 years ago | (#27640847)

and some people in the world die because they don't have food to eat. What are you doing using a computer and the internet?

Not taking money away from efforts to solve world problems for one thing. The RFID tags on the other hand, not so much. I haven't gotten myself elected to govern any country that has those problems either.

Re:Mixed emotions... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27643439)

And more jeers to worrying about passports when they have an obscene HIV rate and I'm guessing not that much of a threat from terrorism. Not to say you can't do both, but until they get their HIV epidemic under control I don't know what they're doing spending money to update passports.

It isn't about terrorism you penis-wrinkle. It is about identity theft for fun and profit.

Re:Mixed emotions... (1)

j235 (734628) | more than 5 years ago | (#27634327)

Three cheers for hammers!
Passport RFID's worst enemy.

'cuse me, where I can buy Aluminum Foil, please? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27634231)

Aren't RFID devices immune to interrogation, ie, when wrapped in aluminum (while being carried, not while showing them)?

Re:'cuse me, where I can buy Aluminum Foil, please (1)

THEbwana (42694) | more than 5 years ago | (#27634355)

http://www.difrwear.com/products.shtml

Lots of countries have this (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27634251)

I believe lots of countries have this built into new passport. I am sure newer Australian passports (well at least in last 3-4 years) have this.

I believe there is some soft of international standard on this.

~AC

Re:Lots of countries have this (1)

Jurily (900488) | more than 5 years ago | (#27634475)

I believe there is some soft of international standard on this.

For the sake of humanity, I hope not.

Fun fact: RFID chips cause cancer [antichips.com] .

Re:Lots of countries have this (2, Insightful)

_merlin (160982) | more than 5 years ago | (#27634603)

That's about implanted RFID chips causing cancer, which sounds quite plausible - putting a foreign object in your body usually isn't a good idea. There's no evidence to suggest that an RFID chip in your passport has any effect on you (except for psychological implications).

Re:Lots of countries have this (1)

Jurily (900488) | more than 5 years ago | (#27634731)

That's about implanted RFID chips causing cancer, which sounds quite plausible - putting a foreign object in your body usually isn't a good idea. There's no evidence to suggest that an RFID chip in your passport has any effect on you (except for psychological implications).

Passive RFID works by getting radio waves powerful enough to power a chip. You think that's a good idea if it's only near your crotch, not in it?

Re:Lots of countries have this (2, Interesting)

chthonicdaemon (670385) | more than 5 years ago | (#27635421)

The field is around anyway, whether there is a chip or not. It's not like the chip attracts the field or anything. If you're worried about the increase in the background EMF strength in general, that's perfectly reasonable, but blaming RFID is not so much.

Re:Lots of countries have this (1)

Jurily (900488) | more than 5 years ago | (#27637031)

It's not like the chip attracts the field or anything.

So what are the scanners for and why can't they scan it from a mile away?

Re:Lots of countries have this (1)

chthonicdaemon (670385) | more than 5 years ago | (#27638433)

The scanners create the field I was talking about. Either they are stationary and have (relatively) high power antennae to reach the tag or they are hand-held and have (relatively) low power antennae which have to be held closer to the tag for it to work. Only in the second case is there a benefit from not having a tag yourself, as you could direct the scanner away from you. In the first case (as in walking through a doorway-style scanner) there is no benefit in not having a tag on your person, you get subjected to the same field strength everyone else does.

The reason the scanners have limited range is because of the way that field strength declines over distance.

Re:Lots of countries have this (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27644177)

You wrote:

The field is around anyway, whether there is a chip or not. It's not like the chip attracts the field or anything. If you're worried about the increase in the background EMF strength in general, that's perfectly reasonable, but blaming RFID is not so much.

So, again: What are the scanners there for, if not for the RFID? If they didn't put the RFID in the passport, why would they have the scanners?

So yes, blaming RFID is perfectly reasonable.

Re:Lots of countries have this (4, Interesting)

TheThiefMaster (992038) | more than 5 years ago | (#27636249)

Except that as you said, the chip is passive, and completely <i>unpowered</i> unless it is being scanned, because it gets its power from the scanner. And because of that, they can't transmit with more power than they are getting from the scanning field.

Which makes them entirely non-dangerous normally, and less dangerous than the field that scans them when they are being scanned.

I'd stop worrying, especially as the (official) scanners are so short range that you have to take your passport out of your pocket (and away from your genitals) for it to be read, so your genitals would never actually be exposed to the RFID chip's radio broadcast.

Re:Lots of countries have this (2, Interesting)

Jurily (900488) | more than 5 years ago | (#27636999)

Except that as you said, the chip is passive, and completely unpowered unless it is being scanned, because it gets its power from the scanner. And because of that, they can't transmit with more power than they are getting from the scanning field.

Except that as you said, the chip is passive, and completely unpowered, so the scanner emits a signal enough to power up an integrated fucking circuit and make it transmit back. Microwave ovens should be closed for a reason.

Oh, you thought the chip itself was harmful?

I'd stop worrying, especially as the (official) scanners are so short range that you have to take your passport out of your pocket (and away from your genitals) for it to be read, so your genitals would never actually be (officially) exposed to the RFID chip's radio broadcast.

Fixed that for you.

Re:Lots of countries have this (2, Informative)

TheThiefMaster (992038) | more than 5 years ago | (#27637427)

<quote>Except that as you said, the chip is passive, and completely unpowered, so the scanner emits a signal enough to power up an integrated fucking circuit <b>and</b> make it transmit back. Microwave ovens should be closed for a reason.

Oh, you thought the chip itself was harmful?</quote>

Who mentioned microwaves? RFID isn't a microwave technology, it's a radio technology. Hence the frickin name.

A microwave oven is closed because a standing wave is required to get the power level needed to cook, not because a loose magnetron (aka microwave generator) is particularly harmful.

The complaints about RFID passports near genitals suggest that people think that the chips are harmful. I disagree.

The RFID chips need milliwatts of power (if not less), they are TINY after all. RFID readers need little enough power that they can be battery powered. See: vet's handheld animal id tag scanners. And THOSE are powerful enough to penetrate flesh. A scanner for a passport chip wouldn't need to be as powerful, so would most likely be even weaker.

Your car keys (if you have radio button ones) are more powerful than an ordinary RFID tag or reader. They can go through metal from tens of feet away, passive RFID tags aren't read from more than two feet and not through metal. I can't remember people worrying about the radio waves from them. Or how about Wii controllers? Or wireless keyboards and mice? Especially the keyboards, placed on your lap/genitals to use!

It's all bullcrap media scaring people about crap they know nothing about.

Re:Lots of countries have this (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27639435)

Cellphones in your front pockets would also count. Not sure how many mWatts they generate while idle, but its scary how much interference IT headsets and PC speakers pick up when you have an idle one nearby.

After all, idling phones still need an active connection to several nearby towers for GPS and scanning for incoming calls.

Re:Lots of countries have this (1)

Gonoff (88518) | more than 5 years ago | (#27634757)

Also privacy, financial and freedom implications.
Then there are terrorist possibilities. They will get RFID readers too...

Yup there is a standard (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27635815)

See
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/RFID#Passports
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Biometric_passport http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ISO/IEC_14443

~AC

Euphemism? (1)

iYk6 (1425255) | more than 5 years ago | (#27634343)

which stores the owner's biometric information, including personal details

By definition, any biometric information will be personal. We can only assume that "personal details" is actually a euphemism for something specific, although I do not believe that that is appropriate for a passport.

Re:Euphemism? (1)

dunkelfalke (91624) | more than 5 years ago | (#27634687)

there are other personal details which aren't biometric, like the postal address, marital status, place of birth and so on.

Jesus Christ! (3, Insightful)

Jane Q. Public (1010737) | more than 5 years ago | (#27634455)

Talk about overkill. So: once it is figured out how to forge these "unforgeable" passports (as has ALWAYS happened so far), then the forgers will just be that more secure, won't they? Because they will be unquestioned.

Re:Jesus Christ! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27646761)

Talk about overkill. So: once it is figured out how to forge these "unforgeable" passports (as has ALWAYS happened so far), then the forgers will just be that more secure, won't they? Because they will be unquestioned.

Even worse, you can't change your biometric information. So once it's compromised you're basically hosed.

Petoria (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27634465)

Why didn't they just call it PeterLand?

Biometric passports can be counterfeit too. (1)

Bob_Who (926234) | more than 5 years ago | (#27634545)

Its still possible to counterfeit new fancy passports with biometric data. But RFID is ideal for accurate accounting. Its like a credit card, and its a wonderful tool for preparing accurate inventories and logs. I think that governments want this so its easier to CHARGE FEES AND TAXES. Also, as a master key reference for an individual and all relative data, address, gps, cell, drivers license, credit cards, mortgage, etc. I honestly believe that its an attempt to authoritatively get an iron grip on to all commerce and financial transactions, down to the monetary system itself. Its virtual wallet and ID and without it you are a prisoner locked out of an identity, civil rights, public access, social services, communications, or monetary transactions. Since its data on a chip that can be scanned without a holders knowledge, it almost makes the individual less necessary to the entire process. Basically, you can just let Big Brother treat you like you are a cell phone, and you'll just get an outrageous billing statement at the end of the month.

Re:Biometric passports can be counterfeit too. (1)

houstonbofh (602064) | more than 5 years ago | (#27640977)

Since its data on a chip that can be scanned without a holders knowledge...

Not if you keep it in a metallic sleeve. http://www.rfid-shield.com/products_passport.php [rfid-shield.com]

Corruption (5, Informative)

Kifoth (980005) | more than 5 years ago | (#27634597)

South Africa's Department of Home Affairs, which issues the passports, is hands down the most corrupt and inept in the country.

The UK has just revoked South Africa's short term 'no visa' entry rights because of the sheer number of dodgy passports being issued by the DHA.

http://www.iol.co.za/index.php?click_id=13&set_id=1&art_id=nw20090224132638974C233056 [iol.co.za]

The problem is not forgery. It's corrupt officials. I fail to see how making the passports 'high tech' is going to stop a bent official from issuing one with phoney details anyway.

This is just (expensive) security theatre.

Re:Corruption (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27634625)

Mod parent up. Because it's true.

Re:Corruption (2, Informative)

wamatt (782485) | more than 5 years ago | (#27635177)

I fail to see how making the passports 'high tech' is going to stop a bent official from issuing one with phoney details anyway.

FTA: Siobhan McCarthy, a spokeswoman for the Department of Home Affairs, said that an online fingerprint verification system is used to confirm the identity of the applicant to cut down on the risk of identity fraud at the point of application. All the data is captured during the application, and a single data file is created and sent directly to the printers to limit the risk of internal fraud.

Re:Corruption (2, Insightful)

Kifoth (980005) | more than 5 years ago | (#27635269)

Yeah, I read TFA.

Those fingerprints are verified against what? They can take blood, semen and iris scans for all it matters. There is no way to verify who those biometrics really belong to.

I can walk into a Home Affairs office, slip someone a wad of cash and get an ID book under the name Wile E Coyote. Once that's through the system, I then go back and get a passport with my biometrics tied to that dodgy name.

Granted, you can't do it twice (they'll have your data from the first passport), but if you're fresh from Al Queada boot camp and looking to get into the USA, you're only going to do it once anyway.

Re:Corruption (2, Interesting)

chthonicdaemon (670385) | more than 5 years ago | (#27635427)

The article also mentions that there is a secure channel through which all the biometric data are transmitted in a single packet to make it harder to tamper with them.

Re:Corruption (3, Interesting)

wamatt (782485) | more than 5 years ago | (#27636063)

I can walk into a Home Affairs office, slip someone a wad of cash and get an ID book under the name Wile E Coyote. O

Right. But that's exactly the point. Its a step in the right direction. With biometerics you can't do that anymore once it becomes mandatory and everyone is bio'd. You need unique data. Also there is not much incentive for someone to make any meaningful cash out of selling the biological data (since they can only ever do it once anyway).

on a side note: I quite honestly don't give a toss if someone has my DNA. My biological code should be opensource :)

Re:Corruption (1)

gringofrijolero (1489395) | more than 5 years ago | (#27638631)

This is just (expensive) security theatre.

MacBeki [guardian.co.uk]

UK are the main reason for this (5, Interesting)

Builder (103701) | more than 5 years ago | (#27634871)

The main reason for this rollout is that the UK recently rescinded the reciprocal visa arrangements for South Africans visiting the UK.

Previously, many SA citizens visited and did business in the UK and no visa was required - They could stay for up to 3 months.

In early Feb this year, the UK govt announced that visas would be required from 3 March onwards due to concerns about the amount of illegitimate SA passports in circulation.

This gave thousands of people who had already bought plane tickets only a few weeks to make the appointment, travel across the country and apply for a visa. If they were unable to do this due to time constraints of financial constraints, they lost the cost of their flights as the airlines pushed back and said that they had sold non-refundable tickets, so it was not their problem.

The SA government really had no choice but to implement these as the UK is a major business partner for many SA companies, and stemming this travel would have been very damaging. And elections are coming up.

Worst off is their AIDS policy (2, Insightful)

aepervius (535155) | more than 5 years ago | (#27635181)

You can mod off topic. Look on badscience.net (Mathias Rath / South Africa state on AIDS) [badscience.net] ). It needs to be repeated that a real tragedy happenned in south Africa. Thankfully Mbeki' resigned and hopefully the new one will be a bit better. So when the ultra corrupt south African govt make up new biometric passport... I would say this is the smallest of the problem of south Africa.

Re:Worst off is their AIDS policy (1)

Builder (103701) | more than 5 years ago | (#27646901)

You're hoping the new guy will be better? Really? HAHAHAHAHA

This is the same cunt that during a trial for raping a woman stated that the sex was consensual and he knew that she had aids - but he had a shower afterwards, so he'll be fine.

Do you _really_ think that someone with that retarded an attitude towards HIV ? It'll only get worse after 23/04/09 :(

tracking citizens (2, Insightful)

spanky the monk (1499161) | more than 5 years ago | (#27635239)

Doesn't anyone else see this as just a system for tracking ordinary citizens?

Tracking citizens: the hallmark of the totalitarian state.

Re:tracking citizens (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27635725)

Umm... don't you think that every Government already tracks who enters / leaves a country using existing passport technologies?

All the new passport technology is trying to do is make sure that it is the passport's rightful owner who's doing the traveling.

Don't let paranoia get in the way of a good rant.

Sheesh!

Re:tracking citizens (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27635909)

Well, not off hand.

To use it to track ordinary citizens, you'd also have to:
1. require all citizens to have an RFID passport
2. require all citizens to CARRY said RFID passport at all times
3. ban the use of RF-blocking wallets or passport cases
4. install a large number of high-powered RFID readers all over the major cities, etc, so you could read the RFID passports covertly as people moved around.

If you do all of that (and vigorously enforce items 1 through 3), then you can use it to track ordinary citizens.

Re:tracking citizens (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27636663)

Yes, this is one step before implanting RFID chips in people and making them "active" chips vs "passive" (ie position can be tracked via satellite). I believe David Icke calls this the "totalitarian tiptoe" ...nice to see some people are awake out there, most are asleep boobs...it's not called the "mark of the beast" for nothing.

Lecture by Dr. Bill Deagle (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27636443)

Lecture [google.com] by Dr. Bill Deagle, discussing many things including health industry. After you're done with the lecture, here's a more recent interview [youtube.com] of Dr. Bill Deagle by the people behind Project Camelot [projectcamelot.org] ...enjoy ;)

IHNTA, IJLTS... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27642727)

yay for SA bandwagoneering with the USA and the EU on privacy-shattering technology to, eh, wage war on what is a people problem, or rather, several. Respect yo, respect for the man. Keep up the good work and never learn from the MIT Athena project observations on the topic. What better than heroically battling the wrong problem, en passant creating more problems to battle?

Re: (1)

clint999 (1277046) | more than 5 years ago | (#27644675)

Unfortunately, countries don't have the luxury of being able to focus on one thing at a time.

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