Proximity chips are being introduced into travel documents worldwide to fulfil international requirements established by the International Civil Aviation Organisation, a division of the United Nations. As both biometric passports and the proposed identity card are, or are intended to be, travel documents, they are required to comply with such requirements. It should be noted that the UK's new e-passport, over 2.5 million of which have now been issued, includes a proximity chip in order to meet ICAO requirements and to meet the conditions of the US Visa Waiver Programme.
The chips being used in passports communicate with the passport reader using radio frequencies. However, use of the term “RFID chips” for these causes confusion as, for many people, “RFID” implies functionality found in “RFID Tags” which are low-security, passive devices, capable of being read by standard equipment at a distance of several metres. The chips used in passports are designed to be capable of being read at distances of only a few centimetres and implement Basic Access Control in accordance with international standards. This requires the reader to scan optically information on the data page of the passport and pass this to the chip before the chip will communicate with the reader. Thus, it would not be possible for a reader to extract any data from the chip at a distance or if the reader had not been able to scan the passport’s data page. RFID Tags will not be utilised in either the biometric passport or the national identity card.
In addition to Basic Access Control, proximity chips in the identity card and passport will use other cryptographic measures in order to prevent the information on the chip from being modified. It is also planned that further advanced encryption will be utilised to secure biometric information on the chip of the passport and card in the future. This will comply with Extended Access Control standards that are currently under development at an international level.
The Government have indicated in Parliament that it anticipates that changes to information on a person's record on the national identity register that would not require a change of card ( e.g. address) would not incur a fee.
With regard to other changes of information that do involve a change of card, a schedule of fees has not yet been decided and will depend on the outcome of procurement processes related to the national identity scheme.
It should be noted that marital status will not be recorded on the national identity register and thus the need to update marital status does not arise.