I renewed my passport today, an act that makes me a proud new owner of a chipped 'ePassport'.
A short office discussion about what one could do with a high-tech passport was derailed when one cow-orker suggested that it could be used in an emergency to request urgent consular assistance, like a kind of bat-signal. The thought of being rescued from possible foreign disaster by a latex-clad Alexander Downer was a little too much for our brains to handle.
On one hand, my government assures me that the information encoded on the RFID chip in my passport is perfectly secure, and can only be read by authorised personnel. On the other hand, The Register points out that the Dutch equivalent, which was presumably built to the same international standards, has been cracked, and that while I carry this passport my personal details are probably available to anyone within ten meters with the right equipment and some patience.
(Like most things in El Reg this is probably exaggerated for tabloid effect, but the more serious analysis is still quite off-putting.)
I'm tempted to write to the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and ask them, in the light of this information, what steps I should be taking to shield my passport from unwanted radiation. However, I suspect that even asking such a thing, let alone turning up to the airport with a passport wrapped in tinfoil, would put me on some list somewhere of People With Something To Hide.
What delightful times we live in.