Are cloud passports the future?

We love the idea of cloud passports, whereby a person's personal information like biometric data, digital photo, and other identification is stored digitally in the cloud, meaning they don't have to show any documents when they touch down in a foreign country.

Just imagine that for a minute. You wouldn't have to spend precious holidaying time queued outside border control, passing instead through quicker and more efficient smart gates. It would also mean one less thing to worry about remembering as you embark on your travels.

Australia ahead of the curve

The Australian Federal Government appears to be as excited about the technology as we are. Last year it endorsed a new proposal based around the idea of a cloud-based passport, which was first mooted at diplomacy-focused hackathon at the Department of Foreign Affairs in Canberra.

In announcing that the Federal Government was in discussions with New Zealand at the end of October last year, Foreign Affairs Minister Julie Bishop said an all-digital passport was "something we'd like to trial and implement".

At the time, she explained why she felt cloud-based passports were the future: "Australia prides itself on having one of the most secure passports in the world, but by embracing and harnessing new technologies, we might be able to do better."

Moving on from ePassports

Australia, like many other countries including the UK, now issue new passport applicants with an ePassport. An ePassport contains a chip storing information about the passport holder such as their photo, name, gender and passport number.

Owners of an ePassort can enter countries who have adopted the technology without speaking to a customs officer, with a machine deciding whether you are fit to enter. However, they do not eradicate the issue of having to carry a physical passport. That's where the argument for cloud passports is strengthened as they would allow people to travel without a physical copy of their passport.

Security concerns

Like virtually any new technological development these days, there are security requirements to consider before cloud passports get the go ahead. The information that would be stored in the cloud would be considered gold dust by hackers.

The Australian Foreign Affairs Minister reassured that security would be of paramount importance as it trials the new technology.

"We wouldn't do it if it were not able to be secure. We are just trialling new ideas and we are just in the early stages of discussion.

"The idea of a cloud passport would of course be grounded in absolute security."

There's also the matter of whether the photos or biometrics of people could be stored by foreign customs agencies, or even passed onto foreign law enforcement.

With that, we'd hazard a guess that cloud passports are indeed the future, but it might be a little while before we can put our physical passports through the shredder.

© Digital Trip