A story circulating widely today says that a Canadian man who forgot his passport was able to enter the United States by showing his driver’s license, plus a scanned copy of his passport on his iPad. Martin Reisch, a 33-year-old freelance photographer from Montreal, told news outlets that a U.S. border patrol officer, who seemed “slightly annoyed,” decided to let him through, despite the lack of a hard passport, after spending a few minutes examining the scanned passport displayed on the iPad. Reisch used the opportunity to push for adoption of digital passports: “I see the future as 100 percent being able to cross with your identity on a digital device — it’s just a matter of time,” he told the Associated Press.
But now U.S. Customs is calling the entire story bogus. In a statement, a spokeswoman says, “The assertion that a traveler was admitted into the U.S. using solely a scanned image of his passport on an iPad is categorically false. In this case, the individual had both a driver’s license and birth certificate, which the CBP officer used to determine identity and citizenship in order to admit the traveler into the country.”
Meanwhile, Reisch has taken to Twitter to deny U.S. Customs’ denial, tweeting to one person, “uh actually i don’t even know where my birth certificate is dude… but i definately didn’t use it.”
The prospect of a secure digital passport is an interesting one. Who among us has not had at least a moment’s panic at the thought of having mislaid such an important document? But its adoption will have to take place through the slow, deliberate process involving both technology (to keep counterfeiters, terrorists, and other evildoers at bay) and international policy talks. This isn’t one-man mission territory.