Backgrounder Article from  Passport Canada

ePassports: Protecting your personal information

Data stored on the chip

The chip in the ePassport securely stores the same personal information that is displayed on page 2 of the passport: your name, your sex, your date of birth, your photo, and the passport number and expiry date. Your signature and place of birth, however, are not reproduced on the chip.

The photo on the chip is the same photo that is submitted with your passport application, but in digitized JPEG format. The fact that your photo appears in more than one place in the passport makes it more difficult to counterfeit. What's more, having your photo on the chip may eventually allow you to use automated customs and immigration kiosks that use facial recognition technology to compare your face to the photo on the chip. This technology is becoming more common at borders around the world.

The chip also contains a digital security feature that proves the passport was issued by the Government of Canada.

No other information is stored on the chip.

Can the chip record new information?

No. When your information is first stored on the chip, the chip is locked and no data can be added or changed without invalidating the passport. If your status changes (for instance, if you change your name), the information recorded on the chip cannot be modified to reflect this change. You will have to apply for a new passport, as is currently the case.

Preventing data skimming

Data skimming refers to reading the personal information on an electronic chip without the knowledge of the bearer. Passport Canada has taken strong measures to protect against data skimming. The chip in the Canadian ePassport must be held within 10 centimetres of an ePassport reader to be read. The information on page 2 of the passport must also be provided in order to access the information on the e-chip. It is therefore extremely unlikely that the data stored on the chip could be read, or skimmed, without your knowledge.

Due to these security measures, the Canadian ePassport does not need a protective sleeve or case to prevent unauthorized parties from reading the data on the chip.

Other countries' use of the information on the chip

When you give your passport to a border agent, you are authorizing the border agent to access the information in your passport. This is why passports exist.

Once you hand over your passport, the border agent may keep the information in your passport. The addition of the electronic chip as an extra security feature does not change this practice. Whether or not the passport contains a chip, the information on page 2 may be scanned or entered manually. All countries, including Canada, may read and record information about foreigners entering their territory. Many countries also take photos of foreigners crossing their borders.

Privacy is a priority

A Privacy Impact Assessment (PIA) was developed for Passport Canada's ePassport project to evaluate compliance with privacy requirements. In addition, Passport Canada has been actively keeping provincial, territorial and federal privacy commissioners informed about the project. Passport Canada is committed to protecting Canadians' personal information, in accordance with the Privacy Act and other relevant legislation and policies.

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