Heightened global security concerns led the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) to set a deadline of 2015 for governments to equip passports with radio frequency identification (RFID) chips. In 2003, ICAO adopted a global plan for the implementation of not just machine-readable passports but also for the use of biometric identifiers in all of its 188 member countries.
Already the United States government leads the way in the use of automatic identification technology in passports, especially after the 9/11 events. The first biometric passports were issued to British diplomats last November and trials have taken place in Paris and Washington. The e-Passport tests will be carried out in San Francisco International Airport, Changi Airport in Singapore and Sydney Airport in Australia. By October this year, all US passports will be implanted with the remotely readable computer chips. However, the worldwide push for e-passports has sparked controversy, particularly in participating nations. The fear is that e-Passports could harm citizens abroad more than they protect the country because hackers, criminals and potential terrorists could exploit the “false reliance on technology”. The enhanced passport already on trial in Europe and America will carry passive (without batteries) RFID chips in their covers. It will initially hold 64 kilobytes of data, but eventually, will increase in capacity to 514 kilobytes. The chip will contain the passport holder's name, birth date and birthplace, and a digital image of the holder's face.