Canada could soon start issuing mobile passports as an added convenience for travellers, Global News reports.

According to new research published by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada which involved 15 focus groups, most Canadians would support using a mobile application to renew their passports, so long as there are safeguards in place to prevent misuse.

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"While it is evident that convenience is a primary consideration for participants, so are safeguards related to ensuring the security and privacy of information," reads the report.

In contrast, participants were not so comfortable making a full switch to virtual  passports, which would entail using ePassports at check-in kiosks with facial recognition software to  avoid having to show the document again to gate agents. ePassports, which have special electronic chips containing the traveller's detailed information, have been adopted  by Canada since they were introduced in 2013 but are not yet used in a virtual gate process.

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"Such concerns cannot be attributed to ‘fear of new technology’ among older participants, as negative reaction to the virtual passport was highest among millennials," the report adds.

While digitizing traveller information may improve ease of travel, it could also pose a threat to personal privacy as the databases which the information is stored in could be prime targets for hackers.

How do mobile passports work?

Mobile passports are already being used in some countries, including the United States. U.S. Customs and Border Protection has launched an app called Mobile Passport, which is currently being used by 25 American airports so far.

Personal data is inputted into the app and stored by customs. When travellers return to the U.S. from abroad, they simply show a bar code linked to their Mobile Passport to gate agents, who then scans it and lets them through.

It's unclear whether Canada will develop its own version of the Mobile Passport app, however the focus group findings could hint at a possible project in the near future.

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