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EU border control aid and connections to biometrics contractors alarm Privacy International

EU border control aid and connections to biometrics contractors alarm Privacy International

A relatively low-profile biometrics provider is receiving funds supplied as aid by the EU to help build ‘mass biometric systems’ in Western Africa, Privacy International says in one of a series of new reports about connections between aid from the EU and surveillance system exports.

Police and security agencies in Africa and the Balkan region have been trained to spy on internet and social media users with controversial techniques and tools, with EU support, according to PI.

The advocacy group also says that EU policies and projects are supporting countries outside the region in purchasing surveillance technology to help further its border control aims. In ‘Borders Without Borders: How the EU is Exporting Surveillance in Bid to Outsource its Border Controls,’ PI suggests that in addition to mobile subscriber identification and wiretapping systems, fingerprint biometric devices sold by NEC to authorities in Bosnia and Herzegovina are part of the same trend.

PI cites a Trust Fund for Africa document showing that the support for development of a biometric identification system in Cote d’Ivoire was in part motivated by what the report describes as a desire to able to identify Ivorian people in Europe “and to organize their return more easily.”

Another report released by Privacy International as part of the same series documents the involvement of Civipol in biometric systems across West Africa. The public limited company owned 40 percent by the French state performed the diagnostic evaluation and formulated the management plan for Senegal’s system, and will work on its implementation with Belgian development agency ENABEL. Civipol is also providing technical assistance to Cote d’Ivoire, the report says.

It goes on to detail the company’s history, its involvement in the Senegal and Cote d’Ivoire projects, with specific reference to legal conflicts that seem to arise from a number of rules established in various agreements, such as for access to biometric databases. While the Senegal project has included a data protection study, it does not appear to have included privacy, data protection, or human rights impact assessments, PI states.

Thales, Airbus DS, and Safran are also part-owners of Civipol.

PI is calling on the European Commission to improve its due diligence, risk assessments, transparency and oversight, in a letter co-signed by 13 other organizations.

Amnesty International called in September for stronger export controls by the EU to prevent face biometrics and other technology used in surveillance from being used for human rights abuses in China.

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