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UN aviation agency's format for biometric passports enters into force

12 July 2005 In an effort to increase aviation security and streamline airport controls, the machine readable passport (MRP) in the format specified by the United Nations civil aviation agency, with integrated information chip and optional iris or fingerprint recognition, is now the worldwide standard and should be in global use within five years.

The 188 Contracting States of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) have agreed that all must begin issuing ICAO-standard MRPs no later than 1 April 2010. Some 110 States currently do so.

“Cooperation among all ICAO Contracting States in the implementation of this new standard is essential for meeting our global objectives, to minimize delays in border-crossing formalities and to safeguard international civil aviation operation against acts of unlawful interference,” ICAO Council President Assad Kotaite said as the standard became effective as of yesterday.

Known as the ICAO Blueprint for the harmonized, worldwide integration of biometric identification in machine readable travel documents, the specifications include:

• the face as the primary, mandatory biometric; iris or fingerprint as secondary and optional

• the contactless integrated circuit chip as the storage medium

• a logical data structure for programming the chip

• a modified public key infrastructure (PKI) scheme to secure the data against unauthorized alteration.

Of the States already issuing ICAO-standard MRPs, more than 40 plan to upgrade to the biometrically-enabled version, or e-passport, by the end of 2006.

ICAO has led the development of biometric-enhanced machine readable travel documents since 1997, in close collaboration with the air transport industry and the International Organization for Standardization (ISO).

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