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Your pass overseas, now online

More than 350 people have gone online and downloaded U.S. passport forms. And the online forms only have been available for only one day.

More than 350 people have gone online and downloaded U.S. passport forms from the U.S. State Department's Bureau of Consular Affairs' Web page.

And the online forms only have been available for only one day.

The surging demand shows the power of the Net in making government documents available to the public. A plan to offer automobile registration online already is available or in the works in some states.

The U.S. Passport forms will save you either a trip to the government agencies where they're available--or a postage stamp.

But when it comes to actually filing the forms, people applying for first-time passports still will have to track down the appropriate office to get them processed. Only those renewing passports can use the mail.

Until online security and other technical issues are overcome, online registration will not be available, said the Web master.

Other government agencies, such as Departments of Motor Vehicles in states across the country, also are struggling with how much information to make available online.

Right now, uploading vital information such as your name, date of birth, place of birth, and social security number, as is required in a passport form, is too risky from a security standpoint.

Fraud is another concern, especially when it comes to passports, said Michael Godwin, staff attorney for the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

"It'll be a hard problem to solve," Godwin said. "How do you identify that the person online is really the person you need to authorize the passport? There's already a brisk business in forging passports."