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US begins testing e-passports

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security announced last week that it is starting a second test of its electronic passport initiative next week, as it seeks to curtail the use of bogus passports at international airports.

The e-passports carry biometric identification technologies. The tests will be conducted at San Francisco International Airport, as well as Changi Airport in Singapore and Sydney Airport in Australia. The testing began Sunday, January 15 and continue through April 15, with the help of the Australian, New Zealand and Singaporean governments.

"This test provides an important opportunity to work with our international partners...to put in place an e-Passport reader solution by the end of fall of this year," Jim Williams, director of US-VISIT, a Homeland Security program, said in a statement.

The passports contain biometric information such as a digital photo, as well as biographic information. The technology being tested promises to read and verify the electronic data when those carrying the e-passports attempt entry into the countries via participating airports.

U.S. diplomats, Australian and New Zealand citizens and Singapore Airlines officials are among those who have been issued the e-passports. These people will also undergo normal screening procedures at the international airports.

The test will be used to gather information to help countries develop their respective electronic passport, the Department of Homeland Security said. The e-passport must comply with the standards issued by the International Civil Aviation Organization.

Previously, the Department of Homeland Security conducted testing at the Los Angeles International Airport and the Sydney Airport, after which it determined further testing was needed.