The U.S. State Department has proposed a plan that would implement the use of radio-frequency identification (RFID) chips in passports. The State Department claims this would enable Americans to pass through border crossings faster. The RFID tags would include the printed information plus the picture of the individual that is on the passport. The State Department plans on using the new technology in diplomatic passports in August 2005.
Critics say the RFID tags could act as beacons, allowing terrorists more information to separate Americans in a group of tourists. The State Department says the RFID tags would only be readable at a distance of four inches. Technology may, however, in the future enable the tags to be read at far greater distances. One item to disallow reading the tags is a lead sleeve that can be put over the passport.