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Biometric features

A biometric passport is a combined paper and electronic identity document that uses biometrics to authenticate the citizenship of travelers. The passport's critical information is stored on a tiny computer chip, much like information stored on smartcards. The chip is able to hold digital signature data to ensure the integrity of the passport and the biometric data.

This combination of the biometrics aims to create an unrivaled level of security and protection against counterfeit and fraudulent identification papers.

I.C.A.O. (International Civil Aviation Organisation) nominated facial recognition as the primary biometric with fingerprint as backup but not mandatory.

The increasing threat of identity fraud necessitates the strengthening of security features in passports. The biometric passports, have new design and additional new security features. New features include pages with intricate designs, watermarks and a chip.

The use of biometric information to link a person to a passport can help to counter identify fraud. In practice, biometric verification can be used at border controls and to verify the image on a passport renewal application against images held on record.

Symbol for biometric passports
Symbol for biometric passports, printed obligatorily on the cover of the passports

What are biometrics?
Biometrics are unique, measurable, physical characteristics which are used to recognise the identity or verify the claimed identity of an individual. Examples include facial image, fingerprints and iris patterns.

How does facial biometrics work?

Facial recognition maps various features on the face, for example, the distances between eyes, nose, mouth and ears. The measurements are digitally coded and this can then be used for comparison and verification purposes.

Is the biometric passport secure?
The new Hellenic passport meets international standards as set out by International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO). It has many new security features including a chip.

The new security features show if the passport is genuine or that it has been tampered with and the facial biometrics on the chip will help link the passport holder to the document.

The data on the chip is been protected against skimming and eavesdropping, through the use of advanced digital encryption techniques.

How is the biometric passport protected?
The data on the chip is secure. It is protected through three layers of security:

  • A digital signature to show the encoded data is genuine and which country has issued the passport.
  • A protection against unauthorised readings ("skimming") through Basic Access Control, a secure access protocol.
  • The data is locked down using a Public Key Infrastructure (PKI), which provides protection against encoded data being changed. PKI is a digital encryption technology, which enables validation of the data as being genuine and shows any change, addition or deletion on the passport chip.

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