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New machines scan IDs at border crossings

Mimi Hall,
Monday, Nov 24, 2008

Agents along the Canada and Mexico borders are using a controversial new machine that can “read” the personal information contained in some government-issued ID cards — such as passports and driver’s licenses — as travelers approach a checkpoint.

The Homeland Security Department says the new practice will tighten security and speed the flow of traffic. Privacy advocates say the technology could make Americans less secure because terrorists or other criminals may be able to steal the personal information off the ID cards remotely.

“There’s this strange rush to a fancy or shiny new technology,” says Lee Tien of the Electronic Frontier Foundation. The cards “are quite vulnerable” to being cloned or having their codes broken.


Machines are in place at five crossings — Blaine, Wash.; Buffalo; Detroit; Nogales, Ariz.; and San Ysidro, Calif. — as part of the government’s requirement that anyone who crosses the border must show a passport or other government documents proving citizenship and identity. The machines are being activated in Buffalo today; machines in Blaine and Nogales are in use; the rest will be on line over the next couple of months.

The new technology is being used in conjunction with new government passports, passcards and driver’s licenses embedded with computer chips that contain the holder’s name, date of birth, nationality, passport or ID number and a digitized photo. The personal data can be “read” by a Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) machine as the person approaches a border-crossing checkpoint.

Full article here [1]