February 20, 2015 -
US citizens and other non-EU nationals entering Europe will soon be asked to participate in facial, iris and fingerprint recognition upon arrival at six major airports, according to a report by the EU Observer.
The pilot program is part of the EU’s Smart Borders initiative, which the EU implemented back in October to make it easier for foreigners who frequently travel to the EU as well as to monitor third-country nationals crossing the borders.
The biometric identification process is voluntary, but there are plans in place to eventually make it a mandatory security measure.
According to a draft internal EU document sent out on February 18th, the “proof of concept” will begin in March and run until September.
“Should traveller participation be lower than expected, there would be a high risk that the results of the tests would be biased or would not reflect reality,” notes the multi-million euro project.
The document lists Arlanda (Sweden), Charles de Gaulle (France), Frankfurt (Germany), Lisbon (Portugal), Madrid (Spain), and Schiphol (Netherlands) as participating airports. However, since the document is still in its draft stage, it is possible that these locations may change.
Frankfurt and Schiphol will request between four to 10 fingerprint sets, Madrid will ask for four and Charles de Gaulle eight.
Additionally, Arlanda, Charles de Gaulle, and Madrid airports will be requesting facial image-captures from disembarking passengers.
The Lisbon airport is also set to conduct iris recognition but the paper notes that “iris pattern of volunteering TCNs [third country nationals] should be captured live, at the same time as the facial image.”
In addition to airports, the new biometric screening process will include road, train, and sea routes. Iris pattern captures will also be conducted in some areas, such as on roads leading into border towns Udvar in Hungary and Sculeni in Romania.
Meanwhile, other border towns will ask for fingerprints, including roads leading into Kipoi Evrou in Greece and Vaalimaa in Finland.
The document also addresses potential security issues for the program, acknowledging that there is “medium” risk that participating member states will not comply with data protection rules.
The rules state that biometric data must be depersonalized, saved locally, and then deleted after analysis, while the biometric data should only be retained long enough to “produce the relevant statistics and analysis.”
eu-LISA, a EU agency that manages large-scale information systems used by border guards and law enforcement, is running the pilot.
The agency will issue the European commission a mid-term report by July 15, as well as a final report in November.
The commission originally proposed the biometric scanning initiative back in 2013, only to withdraw it months later. It will announce a revised version upon the completion of the pilot.