Australia planning digital passports; To be world’s first to initiate document-free travel

By @diplomatist10 on
An Australian Passport Lies Atop A Pile Of Foreign And Local Passports Of Tsunami Victims
An Australian passport lies atop a pile of foreign and local passports of tsunami victims, recovered at a destroyed resort in Matavai on the southern coast of Western Samoa September 30, 2009. Reuters/Tim Wimborne

Australia is stretching its motto of innovation to the arena of passports and will soon become the world's first to roll out digital passports to initiate document-free travel by storing passport data in the cloud.  The move to ditch physical passports has been confirmed by Foreign Minister Julie Bishop.

Under the plan, travelers will not be required to carry a physical passport as their details could be verified using biometric data. The cloud passports will also address the problem of lost or stolen passports. Already, 38,000-odd passports have been registered as lost or stolen each year, reports IT News.

“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,” Bishop added.

The idea, now in the trial stage, results from an 'ideas challenge' held in early 2015. The hackathon at the Department of Foreign Affairs had an "X-Factor" style audition before a panel, comprising secretary Peter Varghese, Foreign Affairs Minister Julie Bishop, Assistant Minister Steve Ciobo and Chris Vein from the World Bank, reported The Sydney Morning Herald.

"One of the ideas was turning a passport chip into a purely digital one," Bishop said. “It's a form of cloud passport that we're just trialling at present,” she added.

Bishop agreed that there were security hurdles to cross before the idea could be implemented especially on the biometric data of citizens.


C Net reports that the initiative for cloud-based storage will target data on personal information, travel history and biometric details of each passport holder in the country.

IBRS infosec analyst James Turner commented that the move raises “all sorts” of cyber security questions. The Foreign minister has assured that the idea of a cloud passport would be rooted in absolute security and the initiative is in sync with the credo of Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, who wanted innovation to be at the heart of his new Government.

“Just doing the same old thing year after year after year doesn't make Australia a more productive, innovative, creative and prosperous country. So we are embracing new ideas,” the Foreign minister added.

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