Telegraph: “Your Smartphone Could Be Your Next Passport”

by Joseph McKeown


The modern smartphone is an amazing device. Apart from the magic of making phone calls, browsing the Internet, and sending emails and texts to your heart’s content, it can control your home thermostat, be used as a level, measure heart rates, and at some point in the near future, may act as a passport for international travel. De La Rue, a British company that prints banknotes and also produces passports, is currently developing technology to store passports within mobile phones, potentially allowing people the freedom to travel without hard copies of their passport. 

“Technology is at the forefront of De La Rue’s business, and as you would expect we are always looking at new innovations and technology solutions for our customers around the world,” a spokesman told the Telegraph. “Paperless passports are one of many initiatives that we are currently looking at, but at the moment it is a concept that is at the very early stages of development.”

The “paperless passports” could be stored on a smartphone and accessed by immigration officials similar to how readers can scan modern passports with readable chips. “Digital passports on your phone will require new hardware on the device in order to securely store the electronic passport so it cannot be copied from the phone,” David Jevans, who works for security company Proofpoint, told the Telegraph.  “It will also have to be communicated wirelessly to passport readers, because doing it onscreen like an airline ticket QR code can be copied or spoofed.” While the prospect of not having to worry about remembering your passport when traveling may be beneficial, the security challenges may be difficult to overcome, especially since phones are especially susceptible to being stolen and certain phones can reportedly be quickly unlocked.

Heading toward a paperless future, Australia has been the first country to make the first step with a trial run of “cloud passports.” The result of a hack-athon held by Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs, which “culminated in an X-Factor style audition before the secretary Peter Varghese, Foreign Affairs Minister Julie Bishop, Assistant Minister Steve Ciobo and Chris Vein from the World Bank,” the “cloud passport” will store the traveler's identity and biometrics data in a cloud to be securely accessed, the details of which are still in development. As with a passport in a phone, critics point out the security concerns with sensitive personal and biographic information as well as travel information stored in an accessible cloud for every individual in the country. "We wouldn't do it if it were not able to be secure,” Foreign Affairs Minister Julie Bishop said in CNet. “We are just trialling new ideas and we are just in the early stages of discussion.”