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What is e-passport?

The govt is using technology to usher in transparency. It is now planning to roll out e-passports soon. What is it? And how different will it be from our regular passports? Let us find out

E-passports | data security | Digital technology

Krishna Veera Vanamali  |  New Delhi 

During her Union Budget speech on February 1st, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman announced the government’s plan on the issuance of embedded with an electronic chip in order to enhance convenience for citizens in their overseas travel.

According to the proposal, the e-passport will be a combination of paper and electronic passport, with a Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) chip. An antenna will be embedded as an inlay in the back cover.

The passport’s critical information will be stored in the chip and printed on the data page. The characteristics of the e-passport are specified by the International Civil Aviation Organization, an agency of the United Nations.

The government clarified that data of the citizens obtained for e-passport will be used only for the purposes of issuance of the passport and related services. There will not be any secondary use of the data, thereby safeguarding privacy concerns.

Further transaction processes are authenticated by digital certificates and are cryptographically signed. Once captured, the data is stored in a secured industry-standard database. The Security Operations Centre will perform relevant database security-related controls round the clock.

The government is currently testing sample with the full-scale manufacture and issuance set to commence following completion of the technical ecosystem and infrastructure.

The facility to issue will be made available in phases at all 36 passport offices across the country.

Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) has reportedly bagged the contract for delivering e-passports. This deal is in addition to the second phase of implementing the Passport Seva Program, which the company got from the External Affairs Ministry.

While the government will source the hardware chips, TCS will be responsible for their encoding.

The government has entrusted National Informatics Centre (NIC) with the technical responsibilities. The e-passports will be produced by the India Security Press in Maharashtra’s Nashik, which has issued letters of intent for the procurement of 4.5 crore ICAO-compliant electronic chips.

Interestingly, the government issued India’s first e-passport with biometric details to former President Pratibha Patil in 2008.

At the request of the Ministry of External Affairs, the National Informatics Centre had conducted a pilot project for the issuance of e-passports then. About 20,000 e-passports for diplomats and officials have been issued.

E-passports enhance the security of passports, eliminate duplication, eliminate data tampering and will be used by border control authorities for monitoring the entry and exit of passengers.

Minister of State for External Affairs V Muraleedharan recently said that any tampering of the ship will be identified by the system, resulting in the failure of the passport authentication.

He said that in addition to providing protection against fraudulent practices, the e-Passport with its advanced security features will substantially upgrade existing passports and services to the citizens.

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First Published: Tue, May 10 2022. 07:00 IST