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South Africa Rolls Out Biometric Passports 60

volume4 writes "The South African Department of Home Affairs has begun rolling out security enhanced passports to new applicants from this week. A facility in Pretoria which prints the new passports was officially opened last week by the minister of home affairs, Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula. The new passports have an embedded RFID chip which stores the owner's biometric information, including personal details, a high-resolution colour photograph and fingerprint information."
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South Africa Rolls Out Biometric Passports

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  • Props to being ahead of the curve on technology. Jeers for the technology they chose...
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      And more jeers to worrying about passports when they have an obscene HIV rate and I'm guessing not that much of a threat from terrorism. Not to say you can't do both, but until they get their HIV epidemic under control I don't know what they're doing spending money to update passports.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by acooks ( 663747 )

        Who gives a crap about HIV? HIV infection can be prevented. The methods for prevention are known. Clinics provide free condoms to anyone. What more would you like them to do?

        The real issues are unemployment, poverty, lack of education, racist politicians repeating the injustices of the past and crime.

        The HIV infection ratio is 18.1%
        The unemployment ratio is 21.7%
        Literacy: 86.4%
        GDP per capita: 10000 USD

        https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/sf.html [cia.gov]

        • by jabithew ( 1340853 ) on Sunday April 19, 2009 @04:16AM (#27634459)

          HIV infection can be prevented.

          By taking a shower, according to your soon-to-be-President.

        • Who gives a crap about HIV? HIV infection can be prevented.

          The country, which is losing a significant portion of it's population directly and having to spend lots of money dealing with the death and orphans really should give a crap. That it's so easily preventable is part of what makes the situation ridiculous and is complicating efforts to deal with unemployment and lack of education: 18% of the adult population getting sick and dying isn't very good for the economy, and all the orphans aren't going to get a very good education.

          Or they could spend the money on R

          • by acooks ( 663747 )

            Am I overlooking your suggested solution, because I can't find it in your post?

            If 18% of the people who are able to work die as a result of HIV/Aids, there's still 3% unemployed, impoverished, hungry mouths to feed. This is Darwin at work and doing an excellent job. Bleeding heart westerners coming to Africa (yes coming to, not going to) and meddling in affairs which they don't understand is what's causing half of the problems.

            When people have 5 kids, below-minimum-wage income and you try to keep all of the

            • by ccmay ( 116316 )
              Of course it won't work. Any nitwit with a hammer and a flat rock can disable an RFID chip.
          • Lack of education is one of the main hindrances to combating HIV and poverty for the population at large.

            However the ruling party is less interested in helping it's population at large than it is about maintaining control over that population.

            The ANC have seen the result of the raising of education standards in Zimbabwe and the subsequent loss of control by the ZANU-PF ruling party

            ZANU-PF have managed to regain that control, largely by brutal oppression coupled with the dismantling of the education s
      • Re:Mixed emotions... (Score:4, Informative)

        by krou ( 1027572 ) on Sunday April 19, 2009 @06:48AM (#27635163)

        Actually, the "terrorism" threat has more to do with the forgery of passports in SA, which will be used by terrorists abroad. It's been getting a lot easier in recent years to obtain South African passports through illicit means. The UK recently introduced new visa restrictions on South Africans because of this. This move is no doubt an attempt to try and alleviate these concerns, which of course it won't, because of the levels of corruption in the SA Department of Home Affairs.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        Unfortunately, countries don't have the luxury of being able to focus on one thing at a time. The old passports were being forged wholesale, leading to public relations problems. TFA actually mentions that SA citizens will be required to get a visa to enter the UK due to high rates of passport fraud. We can't very well sit back and say 'first, lets get this HIV thing licked, then we'll try to pick up the pieces of our foreign relations'.
        • Unfortunately, countries don't have the luxury of being able to focus on one thing at a time.

          Well then if you can't do both well (and you're not) then prevent HIV effectively and do the security thing poorly.

    • by j235 ( 734628 )
      Three cheers for hammers!
      Passport RFID's worst enemy.
  • which stores the owner's biometric information, including personal details

    By definition, any biometric information will be personal. We can only assume that "personal details" is actually a euphemism for something specific, although I do not believe that that is appropriate for a passport.

    • there are other personal details which aren't biometric, like the postal address, marital status, place of birth and so on.

  • Jesus Christ! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Jane Q. Public ( 1010737 ) on Sunday April 19, 2009 @04:15AM (#27634455)
    Talk about overkill. So: once it is figured out how to forge these "unforgeable" passports (as has ALWAYS happened so far), then the forgers will just be that more secure, won't they? Because they will be unquestioned.
  • Its still possible to counterfeit new fancy passports with biometric data. But RFID is ideal for accurate accounting. Its like a credit card, and its a wonderful tool for preparing accurate inventories and logs. I think that governments want this so its easier to CHARGE FEES AND TAXES. Also, as a master key reference for an individual and all relative data, address, gps, cell, drivers license, credit cards, mortgage, etc. I honestly believe that its an attempt to authoritatively get an iron grip on to
  • Corruption (Score:5, Informative)

    by Kifoth ( 980005 ) on Sunday April 19, 2009 @04:47AM (#27634597)
    South Africa's Department of Home Affairs, which issues the passports, is hands down the most corrupt and inept in the country.

    The UK has just revoked South Africa's short term 'no visa' entry rights because of the sheer number of dodgy passports being issued by the DHA.

    http://www.iol.co.za/index.php?click_id=13&set_id=1&art_id=nw20090224132638974C233056 [iol.co.za]

    The problem is not forgery. It's corrupt officials. I fail to see how making the passports 'high tech' is going to stop a bent official from issuing one with phoney details anyway.

    This is just (expensive) security theatre.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by wamatt ( 782485 ) *

      I fail to see how making the passports 'high tech' is going to stop a bent official from issuing one with phoney details anyway.

      FTA: Siobhan McCarthy, a spokeswoman for the Department of Home Affairs, said that an online fingerprint verification system is used to confirm the identity of the applicant to cut down on the risk of identity fraud at the point of application. All the data is captured during the application, and a single data file is created and sent directly to the printers to limit the risk of internal fraud.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Kifoth ( 980005 )
        Yeah, I read TFA.

        Those fingerprints are verified against what? They can take blood, semen and iris scans for all it matters. There is no way to verify who those biometrics really belong to.

        I can walk into a Home Affairs office, slip someone a wad of cash and get an ID book under the name Wile E Coyote. Once that's through the system, I then go back and get a passport with my biometrics tied to that dodgy name.

        Granted, you can't do it twice (they'll have your data from the first passport), but if you'r

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          The article also mentions that there is a secure channel through which all the biometric data are transmitted in a single packet to make it harder to tamper with them.
        • Re:Corruption (Score:4, Interesting)

          by wamatt ( 782485 ) * on Sunday April 19, 2009 @09:45AM (#27636063)

          I can walk into a Home Affairs office, slip someone a wad of cash and get an ID book under the name Wile E Coyote. O

          Right. But that's exactly the point. Its a step in the right direction. With biometerics you can't do that anymore once it becomes mandatory and everyone is bio'd. You need unique data. Also there is not much incentive for someone to make any meaningful cash out of selling the biological data (since they can only ever do it once anyway).

          on a side note: I quite honestly don't give a toss if someone has my DNA. My biological code should be opensource :)

    • This is just (expensive) security theatre.

      MacBeki [guardian.co.uk]

  • by Builder ( 103701 ) on Sunday April 19, 2009 @05:42AM (#27634871)

    The main reason for this rollout is that the UK recently rescinded the reciprocal visa arrangements for South Africans visiting the UK.

    Previously, many SA citizens visited and did business in the UK and no visa was required - They could stay for up to 3 months.

    In early Feb this year, the UK govt announced that visas would be required from 3 March onwards due to concerns about the amount of illegitimate SA passports in circulation.

    This gave thousands of people who had already bought plane tickets only a few weeks to make the appointment, travel across the country and apply for a visa. If they were unable to do this due to time constraints of financial constraints, they lost the cost of their flights as the airlines pushed back and said that they had sold non-refundable tickets, so it was not their problem.

    The SA government really had no choice but to implement these as the UK is a major business partner for many SA companies, and stemming this travel would have been very damaging. And elections are coming up.

  • by aepervius ( 535155 ) on Sunday April 19, 2009 @06:53AM (#27635181)
    You can mod off topic. Look on badscience.net (Mathias Rath / South Africa state on AIDS) [badscience.net]). It needs to be repeated that a real tragedy happenned in south Africa. Thankfully Mbeki' resigned and hopefully the new one will be a bit better. So when the ultra corrupt south African govt make up new biometric passport... I would say this is the smallest of the problem of south Africa.
    • by Builder ( 103701 )

      You're hoping the new guy will be better? Really? HAHAHAHAHA

      This is the same cunt that during a trial for raping a woman stated that the sex was consensual and he knew that she had aids - but he had a shower afterwards, so he'll be fine.

      Do you _really_ think that someone with that retarded an attitude towards HIV ? It'll only get worse after 23/04/09 :(

  • Doesn't anyone else see this as just a system for tracking ordinary citizens?

    Tracking citizens: the hallmark of the totalitarian state.

    • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Well, not off hand.

      To use it to track ordinary citizens, you'd also have to:
      1. require all citizens to have an RFID passport
      2. require all citizens to CARRY said RFID passport at all times
      3. ban the use of RF-blocking wallets or passport cases
      4. install a large number of high-powered RFID readers all over the major cities, etc, so you could read the RFID passports covertly as people moved around.

      If you do all of that (and vigorously enforce items 1 through 3), then you can use it to track ordinary citiz

Vitamin C deficiency is apauling.