The German Interior Ministry confirmed on Monday that new identification
cards containing radio-frequency (RFID) chips will be introduced starting November 1, 2010
- but some data protection experts are critical of the decision.
Its smaller than the old one, but can do a lot more, Interior
Minister Thomas de Maizière said in a statement.
The information on the card itself will be digitally stored on the RFID chip inside the card, in addition to two fingerprint scans that German citizens can choose to opt out of. The ID will also have a digital signature that can be used to complete official business with government offices and possibly beyond accessed only by a six digit PIN number.
The citizens choose who they want to give what data to, Interior Ministry official Hans Bernhard Beus said.
But data protection advocates say the RFID chip, which can be detected via radio frequencies from about two metres away without the owners knowledge, is problematic despite the fact it has already been incorporated into German passports.
Dr. Andreas Pfitzmann, head of the privacy and data security group at Technische Universität Dresden, told The Local on Monday that there is no reason to use RFID chips for identification cards, and that in the worst case scenario, the chips could be used to carry out such things as terrorist attacks.
An extreme example would be that assuming German passports react differently to the radio frequency than American passports, I could use this frequency to set off a bomb where I know there are only Americans or Germans, he said.
Pfitzmann, who specialises in privacy and identity management in Europe, spoke out against using RFID "e-passports" in parliamentary hearings during the late 1990s. He said the new ID cards raise similar concerns.
Unfortunately the technology tempts people to give personal information that shouldnt be made public to dubious machines, he told The Local, adding that there was no way to indicate whether a reading machine is officially authorised. The new identification card has inherited many of the bad traits of the passport.
But the new Perso, as its known colloquially in German, also has some positive new additions such as the digital signature, which could help streamline Germanys notoriously opaque bureaucracy, he said.
There is no easy answer. One could have done some things better, but I wouldnt simply say that its only negative just because mistakes were made, Pfitzmann said.
All old identification cards will be valid until they expire, though German residents will have the option to trade up for the new ID early if they wish. (thelocal, 12.14.2009, Kristen Allen, firstname.lastname@example.org) http://www.thelocal.de/sci-tech/20091214-23931.html
The production of the RFID chips, an integral element of the new generation of German identity cards, has started after the government gave a 10 year contract to the chipmaker NXP in the Netherlands. Citizens will receive the mandatory new ID cards from the first of November.
The new ID card will contain all personal data on the security chip that can be accessed over a wireless connection.
The new card allows German authorities to identify people with speed and accuracy, the government said. These authorities include the police, customs and tax authorities and of course the local registration and passport granting authorities.
German companies like Infineon and the Dutch NXP, which operates a large scale development and manufacturing base in Hamburg, Germany are global leaders in making RFID security chips. The new electronic ID card, which will gradually replace the old mandatory German ID cards, is one of the largest scale roll-outs of RFID cards with extended official and identification functionality.
The card will also have extended functionality, including the ability to enable citizens to identify themselves in the internet by using the ID card with a reading device at home. After registering an online account bonded to the ID card, are able to do secure online shopping, downloading music and most importantly interact with government authorities online, for example.
Biometric passports in a number of countries are equipped with RFID chips, containing a digital picture and fingerprints, and have been around for nearly 5 years after the United States required such passports for any person entering the country.
There are some concerns that the use of RFID chips will pose a security or privacy risk, however.
Early versions of the electronic passports, using RFID chips with a protocol called "basic access control" (BAC), where successfully hacked by university researchers and security experts.
The German ID card is using the BAC protocol as well, but only for the basic data which is printed on the front of the card, the picture and the name. Other fields are protected by a stronger proprietary protocol.
Illegal access to the stored data would be useful to create perfectly forged passports and for criminals to use hijacked identities for supposedly secure transactions online.
The responsible German ministry, however, cites the many advantages of employing a RFID chip, such as a longer card lifetime, the option to connect them to other future devices like RFID-reading mobile phones, and saving cost by being compatible with the existing infrastructure for the RFID passports. (8.21.2010) http://www.ibtimes.com/articles/44536/20100821/identity-cards-with-rfid-chip-on-track-in-germany.htm
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