"Renew for freedom"? Well, sort of...
Largely because it had run out, but partially because of the Renew for Freedom campaign, last month I renewed my passport, sending the thing off with plenty of time for the potential three week turnaround time.
Perhaps thanks to the claimed "resounding success" of the campaign to get as many people as possible renewing in May to avoid the cut-off before the introduction of the new computer-chipped biometric passports, I now have a passport with an issue date of 2nd June - more than three weeks after I sent the thing with next day delivery - an even worse photo than usual, a microchip of some description, and a little leaflet which "contains important information about your new biometric passport". (Although, of course, despite forking out fifty quid for the thing, "Your passport belongs to the government".)
Yes, despite "renewing for freedom", I now have a biometric passport. Cheers guys.
The new chip apparently "stores a copy of your photo and the personal details printed on page 31. There is no extra personal information in the machine-readable zone or on the chip."
As the authorities haven't - to my knowledge - got my fingerprints or DNA (what with me never having been done for any crime), at least I've avoided that part of the biometric invasion, which "we are also considering including... in the future" - apparently "in line with new European Union standards" - which are presumably the ones that Blair's lot made so much fuss to try and push through while they held the EU presidency last year, but as yet (that I recall) have not been passed.
The attempt to pass the fingerprint-storing buck to the EU and "international obligations" is, either way, at best a semi-truth. This is entirely consistent with Blair and co's push for ID cards and the National Identity Register - neither of which are mentioned at all in the accompanying literature, despite now being firmly linked to passports thanks to the piss-poor compromised reached at the final stages of hte Bill's reading.
Vaguely concerningly, the chip also has "an antenna" - although quite for what purpose is not made clear. How far away can the thing be read from? Who is it going to be read by?
Apparently it is "secured by advanced digital encryption techniques", yet they warn that
"The chip and antenna are sensitive electronic devices. Please protect your passport and the chip from damage. They must not be bent, torn or damaged in any way, or exposed to very high or very low temperatures, excess moisture, magnetic fields or microwaves."So no more carrying the thing in your pocket, travel to sub-Saharan Africa or Antarctica - or Britain for that matter, given the "excess moisture" warning - don't let your headphones get near the thing on the plane, and in fact don't even take it anywhere near an airport...
Hell, perhaps this is the government learning from Apple - create a flimsy product that'll break after a few months and force everyone to upgrade to the new one. Like with an iPod, not only will the new version have a load of useless new features that you'll never want to use, it'll also cost more. But unlike Apple it'll also force your details onto a vast and insecure database, claim continued ownership of the product, and demand that you hand over your fingerprints for the privilege.
Still,I suppose I at least avoid the full-on biometrics that will be coming in in a couple of years. And which, apparently, will now be blamed on the EU - because Blair and co have been quietly trying to push the legislation out as EU-originated while no one was looking. Someone should have seen this coming. Oh - wait - I did.