The U.S. Department of State on Monday started to issue electronic passports equipped with radio frequency identification (RFID) chips, and the Government Printing Office (GPO), which is making the passports, on Friday placed an order for millions of chips from San Jose, Calif.-based Infineon Technologies North America, the Associated Press reports via HoustonChronicle.com.
The RFID chips within the new passports store all of the information contained in traditional paper passports, and they can be scanned by chip readers at airports or other locales, according to the AP.
The e-passports are a bit pricier than their predecessors—14 percent more expensive, to be exact—but the State Department said they’ll feature added security benefits and lead to speedier processing, the AP reports.
Production of the e-passports started at the Colorado Passport Agency, and other locations will start making them over the coming months, according to the AP.
Though the State Department touts the security benefits of the new passports, privacy advocates and critics have expressed concern over the possibility of the chips being read or accessed by unauthorized parties.
Two firms have been selected to provide the technology, the first of which is Infineon North America, a subsidiary of Germany’s Infineon, and it already provided the technology for the initiative’s pilot stages, the AP reports. Gemalto, a company based in France, said early this month it was commissioned by the GPO to provide samples of its technology for use in future pilot projects, according to the AP.
People who purchase new passports will pay $85 plus a $12 security fee, but not all passports issued will contain RFID chips until the project is fully rolled out, which is expected to happen within a year, the AP reports.
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