Wednesday, October 06, 2004

Passports: Going Dutch with a Smile

Renewed my passport today. Always a hassle to get a good photo for it. Usually I don't smile, being not particularly amused by identification documents. This time I did though, it may be my last chance. Under American pressure new guidelines have been adopted that mandate a neutral facial expression. I knew it had already been introduced in other countries, but the photographer told me we Dutch could keep smiling 'till next year. So I did, and now I'll be entering the U.S. with an immense grin.

No immense grin when I finally applied for the passport: six counties in the Netherlands give a discount of 10 euros on the final fee to those who volunteer to participate in the new Biometric passport, and Amsterdam is not one of them! This discount is part of an experiment with the processing of biometric information -digital photograph and two fingerprints- stored on a chip in the passport. The information is said not to be centrally stored in the Netherlands, but it stays unclear what foreign countries will do with it at border controls.

The biometric passport will be introduced in about a year and my new one will stay valid for four years. So I can keep smiling and keep my biometrics to myself 'till then. Still, I think it's unfair. I want to get that discount and support the decline of my privacy right now!


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