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This question deals with how Hermione had to alter her parents' passports in order to give them new identities. But what about records of them kept in government databases? If the physical passports listed one name but a different name came up in the computer when they were checked, that surely would have raised questions.

Could she have modified her parents' names in government databases without somehow getting into a government office/facility? Nothing in the books or movies seemed to indicate that she went to that extent.

I'm basing this on the assumption that the UK kept electronic records of passport info in 1997 when HPDH took place, but couldn't find a conclusive answer on that. This post indicates that machine-readable passports came into effect in 1988 and digital passports were issued starting in 1998, so it would be reasonable to assume that the government had a database of passports issued by that time.

Related: Can magic be used to modify computer data? (If they should be merged into one question, let me know)

  • I think the assumption that a 17 year old girl that belongs to some weird anti-technology parallel society knows such things at the dawn of the computer age is a bit out there, especially since even with all the tools we have know, we can't even figure out how they did it back then – Raditz_35 Jun 15 '18 at 20:23
  • Maybe she did it in the airport, after they got through security. (This is definitely not how it's shown in the movie though.) – PlutoThePlanet Jun 15 '18 at 21:30
  • @Raditz_35 Well if there was a problem with her parents' passports when checked against a database they would have run into legal trouble, regardless of whether Hermione was aware of the need to cover that angle. JKR's answer that "she brought them home straight away" and the fact that they made it to Australia in the first place seem to indicate that there was no trouble with them traveling back and forth, although I understand that we don't know for sure. If we find out that they didn't have a passport database in 1997 or she got them there despite legal troubles that would be a valid answer – Ben Sutton Jun 15 '18 at 23:20
  • She may simply have arranged the charm to modify the perception of anyone dealing with them, so when the immigration officer looks at the computer screen they see the name Wilkins instead of Granger. It would be a bit like making a location unplottable. – Paul Johnson Sep 19 '18 at 7:35
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There are at least two reasons why this is unlikely to have been a problem.

Firstly, governments were not as paranoid in the 90s as they are in the post-9/11 era, computers were more expensive, and the internet not so ubiquitous, making it unlikely to begin with that travellers passports were routinely checked against a comprehensive on-line database. (A smaller database containing only particularly wanted criminals seems more likely, but would not affect the Grangers.)

I could only find indirect evidence on this point, but note that the digital image passport was introduced specifically to make forgery more difficult, which wouldn't be necessary if customs could check the photograph online. (That isn't definitive; it is still possible that an on-line database existed but did not include photographs.)

Secondly, well, magic. Harry Potter magic quite simply doesn't leave that sort of loophole; if you have a room with a locked door and a set of flying keys, you can't just use Alohomora or a Reductor Curse to break through the door or the wall; the magic won't let you.

By analogy, we can expect that whatever magic Hermione might have performed to modify their passports would have also ensured that nobody questioned the changes. It isn't clear whether or not magic can affect electronic equipment (beyond preventing it from working) but it can certainly Confund the people who are using it, whether that means them thinking they'd already processed the passport, or that the names they were reading off the screen were in fact the ones they were expecting.

In other words, a wizard did it.

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