To use it, make sure your phone is set to stay on for at least 30 seconds. Enter the passport number, date of expiry and your date of birth. Close the passport and place it on a non-metal surface. Place the phone on top. The phone should beep and show a progress wheel. Don't move it. After about 10s it will display the data from the chip.
If you have difficulty, it's best to allow 15 minutes before trying your passport again.
The app was written by the UK's Identity and Passport Service. Most UK passports issued since 2006 have a chip in them which stores the holder's photo and all the details which are also on the photo page of the passport. The app will only display the data from the passport chip - it won't do anything else with it. It is just a passport reader, not a passport checker, so it will not verify that a passport or the passport chip is genuine. The app does not transmit or store any data.
This app is a proof of concept and was built to allow us to explore this technology. We know that there are many things it could do which it does not do, and there are some things it does do which could be done better. The methods it uses to read the chip are public domain.
We are interested in your feedback on this app; Please use it and leave a review.
1. How much did this cost? The app was developed by a member of IPS’s staff outside working hours. It uses no proprietary or copyrighted code. The testing and security evaluation costs were minimal. The protocols the app uses to communicate with the chip are freely available (ISO 14443 and ICAO Basic Access Control) and the app uses no information which is particular to Government to read the passport chip.
2. Why do I have to type in details as opposed to have the camera read them? This would have required more investment in development which would not have been appropriate for the app’s status as a ‘proof of concept’.
3. Why do I have to type in details at all? The passport chip uses Basic Access Control (BAC) to control its communications with devices attempting to read it. Essentially this means that the chip will not allow any information to be read from it until certain items of data from the passport have been passed to it (the passport number, the date of birth and the date of expiry). This makes it impossible for a criminal to remotely read a passport in your pocket, and ensures that the person reading the passport has opened the passport book to read these details before activating the app.
4. Does this mean someone can steal my identity? The app does not increase the risk of a person’s identity being stolen. No more information is read than is already available on the data page of the passport. The app does not store data or transmit data. No data remains in the phone’s memory after the app is shut down.
5. Why is Government developing this? There are potential uses for a portable, cheap passport reader and this is a mechanism to explore and test the technology. A future development might, for example, validate that the passport is genuine as well. Releasing this app will give us experience in this area and make us better informed when developing and making decisions about future, potentially more sophisticated, apps.
6. What's next? What will the next version of the App do? It has not been decided whether there will be any future development of this app. However a future version could confirm that a passport is genuine or has not been reported lost/stolen. Developments like these may be useful to those wishing to make employment checks.