The International Civil Aviation Organization is currently working on the Logical Data Structure version 2 or LDS2, the next evolution of the ePassport standards.
They were initially implemented in 2005 based on the ICAO doc 9303 defining the specifications of machine-readable passports.
In particular, the ICAO defined the Logical Data Structure version 1 (LDS or LDS1), which is the way data is stored in the micro-controller to ensure international interoperability.
For the moment, information stored in the ePassport becomes static at the time of issuance and cannot be modified. In the field, the electronic passport micro-controller is "read-only".
"Sealing" the data at the time of issuance ensures that personal information is protected, and that passport tampering can be more easily detected.
Visas, travel stamps and biometrics impacted
Today, other travel data such as visas and travel stamps are physically entered into the document's visa pages, and visa and travel records must be manually checked.
Recognizing this limitation, ICAO's New Technologies Working Group (NTWG) has commissioned a sub-group to explore the policy and technical framework for the next generation of machine-readable passports.
While ICAO doc 9303 focused on the electronification of the passport data page, the next-generation specifications (Logical Data Structure v2 or LDS2) will focus on the digital conversion of the rest of the document.
LDS2, the new generation of the Logical Data Structure, will be optional and extend the use of the ePassport through the addition of a read-write function. Travel data such as visas and travel stamps and other information such as additional biometrics could be added.
LDS2 will further protect the document against counterfeiting, copying and unauthorized reading or writing.
Why does that matter?
Converting travel stamps to digital format will bring several benefits:
- Greater consistency
- More reliability
- Enhanced security
- Easier access.
LDS2 will allow electronic visas to be added to the document instantaneously, bolstering client service and reducing the costs associated with visa issuance.
Digitally signed storage of visa and travel stamps would dramatically increase the security of those elements against tampering while improving the security flow with Automatic Border Control gates.
Standard formatting will also enhance the readability and reliability of the information and will facilitate the exchange of information between countries.
LDS2 will address the lack of a live biometric capture infrastructure across a country as well as privacy.
Citizens will be able to provide their biometric data on a voluntary basis if they want to enjoy the convenience of fast track through an eGate.
LDS2 will provide a more automated and reliable risk assessment with analysis of the risk that travellers present by detecting unusual travel patterns, disconnects between entry and exit stamps and mismatched travel history.
It will also enable automatic insertion and verification of data in the passport's micro-controller that will allow more people to go through electronic gates.
It will also build synergies with frequent and trusted travellers programs, eliminating the need for dedicated documents.
The best part?
The storage of biometrical data often takes place in several databases outside the direct control of the traveller. The alternative with LDS2 is to store those biometrics in the micro-controller for stronger privacy. The ePassport will act as an identification token.
At any time, data stored in the LDS2 application must be signed by the inspection or visa issuance system, allowing the verification of the authenticity of the data.
Right now, where do we stand?
Much work has been done by the ICAO NTWG Logical Data Structure 2 (LDS2) Sub-Group.
The LDS2 PKI, for authenticity, integrity and access authorization has been defined in this March 2018 document by the ICAO.
The LSD2 is defined in this document dated April 2018.