If you’ve had a New Zealand passport issued since November 2005 you would have spotted the Near Field Communication (NFC) page in your passport. This solid page contains a NFC chip which duplicates the data printed in your passport electronically, and also contains a digital copy of your photo along with the biometric data relating to this photo.
An ePassport is now mandatory for visiting a number of countries, and if you’ve been to Australia in the past couple of years chances are you’ve used a Smartgate machine at the airport rather than having to be processed manually by Customs. The Smartgate kiosk reads the biometric data from your passport and when your photo is taken it is compared to the biometric data in your passport to establish a positive match.
If you have a modern Android phone with NFC capabilities you can easily view the contents of this NFC chip.
Download the NFC Tag Info app from the Play store to your Android phone, and once installed click on the app to run it. If you now try and read your passport you’ll see an error come up saying “Basic Access Control is active”. BAC is an security layer protecting your passport from being accessed without an encryption key, essentially preventing your ePassport from being read by somebody who doesn’t have physical access to the passport. The BAC encryption key is generated using your passport number, date of birth, and passport expiry date – data that is only printed inside your passport.
If you now go back to the main menu you’ll see an option to “setup access keys”. enter your passport number, date of birth and passport expiry date and press save. This will generate the encryption key required to read your passport.
If you now put your phone next to your passport the app will be able to read the NFC chip and you should see your passport details and photo appear on the screen.
A number of other details can be viewed, including the biometric data for your photo and the Machine Readable Zone (MRZ) data which is the machine readable text that appears at the bottom of your passport photo page.
To change electronic details of a passport additional layers of encryption exist also – you can’t change your details simply by having the BAC encryption key as this allows read only access.
If you’re interested in knowing more here are a few links you might want to check out:
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