1. All the talk about "tracking" is nonsense. An RFID anything has a range measured in inches normally. Stuff it in your wallet sandwiched in between more cards and it pretty much won't work.
Until the next technology comes along -- then you can be tracked with all the range they want. But by then it will be too late to argue about it and you would just look like one those "tinfoil hat" types or a "conspiracy kook" if you questioned it. All Americans want to be tracked to help their government fight "terrorism", don't they?
There are limits on the signal to noise ratio and distance, and you can greatly reduce the readability with a commercially available sleeve. Or a piece of tinfoil. Like the kind you currently use for your hats
3. What's the application though? If it is just border crossings, then do border crossings have the infrastructure to process a contactless card?
The application is -- you guessed it -- remote tracking. The newest U.S. Passports as of July of this year all have RFID chips in them as well. It's not perfect, but yet another baby step on the way to "total information awareness" on citizens, just like the East Germans had but without all the fancy technology. It's a pilot program, testing the waters regarding citizen resistance, and inching it into general acceptance. There was a huge revolt against the REAL ID program, so think of this as a "reboot" of that program.
The passports are including a chip so that we can retain our visa-waiver status with European countries. They don't trust paper travel documents anymore, and they require anyone traveling there to either have a secure Schengen visa or a document from your home country that they think is secure enough. If you ever get concerned about the "remote tracking," wrap more layers of aluminum foil around your passport and ID.
4. Accidentally leaving the card inside a microwave oven while you are warming coffee would harm the chip, so don't ever do that.
That's right. As soon as they get enough of these things in circulation, you will need them to get on airlines, go in government buildings, or maybe pass "illegal immigrant checkpoints". If your RFID chip was disabled, that might mean that you are an illegal immigrant, or a terrorist, or that you just like standing in long lines and being searched thoroughly.
The REAL ID program would have gone into effect on May 11 of this year, except that it was such a tremendous threat against the rights of our citizens that many states openly revolted against it. The REAL ID was an "enhanced drivers license" and you would have needed it to get on airplanes or enter government buildings nationwide by now. The Department of Homeland Security had a deadline of May 13 of this year, and yes, they were planning to put an RFID chip in the REAL ID card as well. Google it -- it's everything that you are arguing that this identical program is not, and it was a planned nationwide program before it got derailed.
I have no problem with a secure document that proves my identity, as long as I can shield it when not in active use. If I don't trust the shielding that the government provides, I can use my own. I have no problem with biometric authentication on the document, as long as the enrollment data is a token on the card and not in a central government database. Both of those are covered in the new passports, so I don't have a problem with it.
Where I do have a problem is that the breeder documents AREN'T as secure. We can't trust biometric passports from some crazy eastern European country if anyone can show up with two photoshopped printouts and get enrolled with a new name. The most secure document in the world is useless if you weren't able to prove the identity in the first place.
What you *should* be on the lookout for are programs with central biometric databases. Having a US passport like this allows you to visit Europe without getting a Schengen visa, which uses a central duplicate check and database to store your fingerprints.
There's a tough balance there though, since not having a biometric duplicate check makes the documents less valuable, since anyone can have duplicate ids under different names if they can come up with breeder documents. If you're concerned about centrally stored biometrics, contact your congress-critter and tell them that. But you're not going to get much traction against a strong identification document that can only be used when you take it out of 15 layers of aluminum foil.