Civil liberties group attacks EC proposal for mandatory fingerprints in national IDs

Civil liberties group attacks EC proposal for mandatory fingerprints in national IDs

Civil liberties organization Statewatch says the recent European Commission proposal that the inclusion of fingerprints in all national identity cards of EU member states be made mandatory is an unnecessary and unjustified infringement of privacy rights.

The EC is calling for ID cards to include two fingerprints and a facial image for biometric matching to facilitate the free movement of 370 million people, but Statewatch points out that it has also been presented as a security measure to prevent terrorism. Further, Statewatch says that no attempt has been made to demonstrate the proposal’s necessity or proportionality, and the Commission’s impact assessment recommended excluding mandatory fingerprinting.

“Measures to enhance peoples’ ability to move freely within the EU and that genuinely seek to address terrorism and organised crime are, in principle, to be welcomed. However, there is no link between these two aspirations and the compulsory fingerprinting of 85% of the EU population,” said Statewatch researcher Chris Jones. “The proposal for the mandatory inclusion of fingerprints in national ID cards is irrelevant and unjustified, and should be rejected by the European Parliament and the Council when they begin discussing the Commission’s proposals.”

Of the 370 million people who would be affected by the measure, 195 million are already obligated to provide fingerprints for national IDs, but those obligations could not be changed through national laws if the proposal is accepted, Statewatch says. The organization also says that the Commission has only attempted to justify the infringement of privacy rights by claiming that poor document security hampers free movement and undermines security, and by stating that the inclusion of two biometrics improves identification capacity and aligns the security level of the documents with other types of documents.

Statewatch also warns that countries may take the opportunity to establish national biometric databases, which could then be integrated into an interoperable central identity repository at the EU level.

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