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French watchdog warns government about building biometric database


Following previous policing efforts against Facebook Inc and Google on data privacy, French watchdog organization CNIL is working towards ensuring that the government does not breach the privacy of citizens, according to a report by The Business Times.

CNIL president Isabelle Falque-Pierrotin recently warned the French government against building a central database with fingerprints, photos and other personal information of nearly all its citizens.

“Fighting terrorism is an undeniable priority and it may call for new tools, but new deployments must be coupled with extra guarantees,” Falque-Pierrotin said. “We need guarantees that the balance will be preserved between security issues and protecting privacy.”

After combating Google on its privacy policy and Facebook for storing non-user data, Falque-Pierrotin said she is restructuring CNIL to take on both corporate and government practices.

In response to the three major terrorist attacks in France since January 2015, the government has been contemplating on creating a massive database that would authorize ID cardholders.

Following publishing a decree in October, France’s interior ministry said that citizen’s registration of the database would be strictly voluntary. However, CNIL are still concerned with the potential implications of such a database.

“Would this database really be the best answer to the government’s goal of being able to authenticate a citizen’s ID card? We think there are alternatives,” Falque-Pierrotin said, suggesting that the government adds a chip to the French national ID card.

Introducing a chip-embedded national ID card would eliminate the need for a potentially insecure database, or the government’s misuse of private information.

“Fighting for privacy on the government front – that’s in our original DNA,” Falque-Pierrotin said. “Today, amid terrorism, amid new challenges linked to data collection for intelligence purposes, being vigilant on the government front is just obvious.”

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