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Microchips with Everything

The Q Wealth Report
05 August, 2008

In my very first lowtax.net blog entry, a couple of months ago, I mentioned Henry Porter’s excellent Suspect Nation, a Channel 4 documentary that, amongst other concerns, raised major questions about the security of the new biometric “chipped” passports that most major countries including the UK have now introduced.

The privacy risk was highlighted just this week with the news of the theft of a few thousand blank passports while a van driver stopped to buy a newspaper in Manchester. The stolen blank passports were apparently destined for British Embassies worldwide, who are responsible for issuing passports to non-resident British citizens such as yours truly.

The government claims the passports were “useless” because the chips had not been activated. However, nothing could be further from the truth. My attention to this was drawn by an article entitled A Nice Little Business in British Passports. Then I did a little more research on the subject.

Offshore bankers beware, because professional money launderers bearing these very same passports might well be walking into your bank one day soon. Citizens in general beware, because all this shows just how easily your data may be compromised. Those money launderers might just be walking in to banks pretending to be you, because you showed your passport to some business which asked to see it.

The rules regarding chip passports are clearcut - they are still valid even if the chip is not functioning. Basically anyone with a colour inkjet printer can insert a photo and data in the stolen blanks according to their wishes.

Of course, if the chip is not working when checked at a border control point, it might invite further questioning. But then again, most borders in the world (probably including most UK checkpoints) are not equipped yet with chip readers. Not to mention banks, benefit offices and so on. There’s already a privacy conundrum here because the chip readers are supposed to be highly secure and as such are not available to the private sector.

Perhaps most worryingly of all, though, is the overwhelming evidence (just look at the Suspect Nation documentary) that the chips can be copied. This raises the spectre that businesses requiring sight of your passport – almost any business these days – can be “pharmed” to collect data of real, valid passports that are not reported lost or stolen. Just copy the data onto the virgin chip in the stolen blank passport, print the data on the appropriate page, and hey presto there is another “you” walking around with a supposedly failsafe identity document, that will even pass online verification checks from banks and other government departments.

The above is just one more reason why you should do what you can to resist the surveillance society. If you would like to know more about taking steps to protect your privacy, please sign up for our free monthly email newsletter Q Bytes.

Peter Macfarlane is joint editor of The Q Wealth Report an established newsletter dedicated to informing readers about creating, protecting and growing wealth in a secure offshore environment. It also covers international living, banking, retiring and investing. Visit www.QWealthReport.com to see more.


About the Author

The Q Wealth Report

Peter Macfarlane of The Q Wealth Report blogs on Freedom, Wealth and Privacy qwealthreport.com


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