[Dave Birch] According to Europe Information (which I can’t link to online), the European Commission has decided to adopt the proposed technical specifications for biometric passports.  This means that by June 2009, member states (except, of course, for the UK and Ireland because they have opted out of euro-border control stuff) must be issuing e-passports with an electronic chip embedded in them that contains two of the holders fingerprints as well as the facial image.  The "Justice, Freedom and Security" Commissioner Franco Frattini unveiled the specifications on 28th June.

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It’s a matter of opinion, of course, as to whether this means any kind of deadline.  A number of the member states will miss this years (end of August) deadline for e-passports with facial images (ie, ICAO e-passports) that was created two years ago. (Regulation 2004/2252/EC, just in case you’re interested).  Still, it does seem to me that as the volume of face/finger chips grows, it must have a knock-on effect beyond passports: the cost-curve and de facto standardisation mean that it will become attractive to use the same chips for other applications (eg, theme park memberships cards, sports club tickets and so on).
According to the report I saw, Germany has already issued 1.5 million e-passports, which is not bad going.  One of the other more advanced countries is Norway, which informed readers might recall is not actually in the EU but is bound by the specifications because it is part of the Schengen area.  And Sweden has also started issuing.
All of this means that the chips are becoming commoditised and a value-chain for exploiting them is growing up.  So whether the e-passport deadline is met or not, e-passports are already having an impact.

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