Strange that HM Gov should make a statement about magnets. The chip is actually a small memory device and would be more prone to static discharge than magnetism.
still it requiers power of some sort to operate, either in a passive mode or an active mode, magnetic manipulation of these power sources can have the potential to render the data on the chips into an unreadable mess.
SmartCard / RFID memory is designed to be a bit more resilient than normal computer memory. SmartCard operating system software has to assume that the SmartCard will inevitably at some time be powered down midway through a memory read or write, and that the memory location
, and the memory cells which are physically adjacent
to it, and the microprocessor registers, will all have been corrupted,
so there are usually rollback features
- part of the reason why SmartCards / RFID chips are so comparatively slow
Why are you worrying about trying to permanently disable the RFID chip ? Why not simply shield it with some aluminium foil ? That way you may not be subjected to extra delays and searches when you present your Passport at passport control
The biggest privacy risk is the shared database, not the Passport itself.
If your RFID chip in your Passport is not working, that will simply mean that British Airways or Avis care hire or whatever other authorised 3rd party company will still scan your face or fingerprints and verify them with the National Identity Verification service.
In doing so, they will have independently stored a copy of your biometric details, outside of the control and the alleged protections afforded by the Identity Cards Act 2006, so that they do not have to pay a Verification Service Fee every time you return as a customer in the future, and a time,date, location transaction entry will have been logged against your record on the National Identity Register audit trail log files.
online lookup has to be done, either at Passport Control (unlikely in the Uk, but perhaps at remote border posts around the world without online access), or by the authorised commercial company, and only the digital signature of your encoded biometrics have to be checked against your fingerprints or face etc., then perhaps this data tracking footprint will not end up on the central systems. However , you need a working RFID chip for that.
N.B. shielding your passport with aluminium foil might make you appear to be a drug smuggler or terrorist if you are being remotely scanned by a "see through your clothes" imaging device, but you are currently only likely to encounter one of these at an airport.
Shielding your RFID passport to stop any signal, should stop sneaky 3rd party commercial exploitation of the tracking potential of your RFID enabled passport, which will be a growing privacy risk, as more legitimate and illegally modified, extended range, reader equipment gets deployed.
It is also is more likely to counter any RFID sensor triggered terrorist bomb, which only really needs the unencrypted initial RFID radio protocol handshake, to imply that a UK passport holder is within lethal range. The actual personal data can be corrupted, and the bomb could still detonate.
A bomb could be specifically targeted at your (unencrypted) passport chip id, in which case, a small amount of data corruption, e.g. one or two bits, could either protect you from such a device, or it could accidentally trigger a device intended for someone else, or for a non-UK passport e.g. from the USA
The risk of such bombs is only theoretical at the moment, but there is no inherent safeguard built in to the Biometric Passports e.g. by not
using Radio at all, but instead using a contact smartcard or an optical 2D barcode etc.