Feeds

Home Office boffins slip out passport-scanning Android app

'Very good, Jones, but what's the point of our latest gizmo?'

Boost IT visibility and business value

Android owners with NFC handsets can now read their passports with an official Home Office app - and civil servants want to know what other features could be added to it.

UK passports have had chips in them since 2006, containing a digital version of the photograph and other details, all cryptographically signed. Phones equipped with Near Field Communications (NFC) tech can read that data, and various apps have been developed to do just that.

But this is the first app of its type from the Home Office – and the first to publicly ask: Why bother?

The Home Office didn't fund the app – at least, not in any meaningful way – as it was developed by staff in their own time to prove the concept.

The chip in a UK passport won't hand out data to just anyone, so users have to manually type in the passport’s number, expiry data and the owner's date of birth - all of which would be optically scanned at border control - to prove they’re not lifting the details from a fellow traveller.

A comprehensive FAQ explains that these details could be captured using the camera, but that was considered unnecessary. The app is just intended to establish if there's any value in developing the concept further.

The details stored in the chip as the same as those visible on the passport, so they're of little value to the holder. Anyone else would need to have possession of the passport to use the facility, which would seem to render it redundant.

Hotels and other institutions often photocopy passports for security, so perhaps they could use the app to take a digital version instead. Checking the digital signature relies less on human faculties than the old-fashioned scrawl, so digital copies could be valuable in picking up forgeries (which was the point of the chip), but that seems a limited market.

But anyone with any ideas for making legitimate use out of passport data, or just interested grabbing their passport pic for use on Facebook, is invited to download the app and let the Home Office know what they think.

Boost IT visibility and business value

More from The Register

next story
The Return of BSOD: Does ANYONE trust Microsoft patches?
Sysadmins, you're either fighting fires or seen as incompetents now
Munich considers dumping Linux for ... GULP ... Windows!
Give a penguinista a hug, the Outlook's not good for open source's poster child
Intel's Raspberry Pi rival Galileo can now run Windows
Behold the Internet of Things. Wintel Things
Linux Foundation says many Linux admins and engineers are certifiable
Floats exam program to help IT employers lock up talent
Microsoft cries UNINSTALL in the wake of Blue Screens of Death™
Cache crash causes contained choloric calamity
Eat up Martha! Microsoft slings handwriting recog into OneNote on Android
Freehand input on non-Windows kit for the first time
Linux kernel devs made to finger their dongles before contributing code
Two-factor auth enabled for Kernel.org repositories
prev story

Whitepapers

Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Top 10 endpoint backup mistakes
Avoid the ten endpoint backup mistakes to ensure that your critical corporate data is protected and end user productivity is improved.
Top 8 considerations to enable and simplify mobility
In this whitepaper learn how to successfully add mobile capabilities simply and cost effectively.
Rethinking backup and recovery in the modern data center
Combining intelligence, operational analytics, and automation to enable efficient, data-driven IT organizations using the HP ABR approach.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.