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Our government encourages the citizens to move to "smart passports", which contain biometric data such as fingerprints. They say it is safer for us because it prevents identity thefts.

On the other hand, some people claim that the entire idea of having my biometric data in a government-controlled database is problematic, since this data might leak to criminals (e.g. because of a bribed officer, etc.).

I need to create a passport now and I am confused - which kind of passport is better?

  • What nationality are you, and what countries are you likely to visit on your passport? – Mike Scott Dec 14 '14 at 8:32
  • I am from Israel. I am going to travel to the USA, and then maybe also to the Netherlands and Turkey. – Erel Segal-Halevi Dec 14 '14 at 8:35
  • What could a criminal with your leaked biometric data do? – IQAndreas Dec 14 '14 at 8:40
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    @IQAndreas gain access to any system which relies exclusively on biometrics for authentication – Natanael Dec 15 '14 at 11:13
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This very much depends on implementation and the data stored. For instance if the passport has a chip with your DNA information then it is relatively secure since it is really something someone else cannot fake, well they can if you reference Gataca, so it would not matter if the db was hacked or not assuming the implementation is by physically taking a DNA sample. As others have mentioned fingerprints and facial scans can be duplicated but mostly because they can be digitized and analyzed easily, DNA samples cannot without very expensive machinery. In other words, at this point in time no one will use a blood sample to access your bank account online, if they did then it would be more susceptible, however I can see governments using DNA analyses to verify the identity on a passport.

The problem with a lot of common bio-metrics is that there are fairly easy ways to fake it, like rubber finger prints or makeup which can be faked without ever physically accessing the person, taking blood or skin samples requires access to the source of the material and is harder to trick people with.

Of course the alternative is a password or a signature which can have it's own issues, I would say if there was a choice fingerprints would be more secure, if for nothing else it would be a lot more trouble for someone to obtain then a password.

Hope that helps

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You are leaking your face picture at all time, unless you wear a hood or other face covering.

You are leaking your fingerprints hundreds of times a day, everytime you touch a suitable surface.

Now, will a criminal intent to get your biometric data

  • penetrate a government database.
  • bribe a official
  • take your photo from your Facebook account and take the glass you used to get a refreshment in that café in order to lift your fingerprints of it.
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    If by penetrating a government database he can get biometric data about millions of people, then it is much more profitable for a criminal then to go from cafe to cafe and collect millions of fingerprints from glasses... – Erel Segal-Halevi Dec 14 '14 at 14:31
  • The black market for fingerprint database, if it exists, is really well hidden. It is very unclear what profit and purpose there would be for such a market. Many people don't see it that way yet, but fingerprints are essentially public information and as such, mostly worthless. – Bruno Rohée Dec 14 '14 at 15:35

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