News reports that stolen Austrian and Italian passports were used to book two airline tickets on the disappeared Malaysian Airlines Flight 370 intensifies the need for biometric passports and borders, including a biometric exit program in the United States.
Biometrics assure that people are who they say they are, and makes it extremely difficult for identities to be stolen and travel documents to be used illegally.
The 9/11 Commission recommended biometric borders when it was determined that al Qaeda relied heavily on counterfeit and stolen passports for clandestine travel.
“Fully biometric passports and readers can prevent stolen passport holders from successfully bypassing immigration authorities,” said Janice Kephart, founder of the Secure Identity & Biometrics Association (SIBA) and former 9/11 Commission border counsel.
“Moreover, biometric borders are now cost-effective, extremely fast, and are currently enabling countries like New Zealand to incorporate airline check-in with immigration check-out, building seamless convenience for the traveler and safer skies.”
Identity assumption remains possible where passports do not meet the international standards requiring inclusion of a biometric, or a country fails to implement processes to read biometrics.
Today, the United States and countries around the world, including Austria, Italy and Malaysia, issue e-passports that meet international security standards.
However, where countries fail to embed biometric readers into border processes at both entry and exit, the likelihood of success for a stolen passport to be used for purchase and check-in of an international flight increases substantially, according to SIBA.