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German police face biometrics use increasing rapidly, report shows

Heist of ID documents and biometric scanners also revealed


A document from the German parliament contains figures from the country’s federal ministry of the interior which indicate that the number of facial recognition queries made to the biometric database held by the Federal Crime Police Office (BKA) jumped by one third last year, according to a report by German civil rights activist Matthias Monroy.

The news report notes that a total of 76,535 queries were made in the facial recognition system of the Federal Criminal Police Office, up from the about 54,000 in the previous year, with most of the searches coming from criminal investigation offices.

The German police data is said to contain millions of faces, fingerprints and palm prints, as law enforcement officers are increasingly processing biometric data with the European Union, the report adds.

The increase in searches has been attributed to the fact that the BKA has facilitated procedures for state criminal investigation officers and agents of the federal police to identify unknown individuals using a biometric database held by the central information police system (INPOL-Z), which contains about 5.7 million portrait photos of 3.64 million persons.

Monroy reports that the parliamentary interpellation shows there was a noticeable increase in the number of photos in the INPOL-Z database, but the number of people whose identities were matched and verified on the platform were not disclosed by the federal interior ministry.

It is also indicated in the report that German authorities received 5,618 hits of stored fingerprint biometric searches of persons wanted by other countries of the European Union, especially in the last three years where the Schengen Information System uses an Automatic Fingerprint Identification System (AFIS). The report also mentions the use of biometric data for purposes other than asylum and visa related issues, which is said to be on the increase.

Hundreds of German IDs, passports stolen

Meanwhile, German broadcaster DW reports that a safe containing hundreds of digital ID cards and biometric passports was carted away from a registration office in the German city of Kothen.

The city Mayor Bernd Hauschild confirmed the incident saying two biometric fingerprint scanners and a printer used by staff of the registry office were also taken way, DW mentioned, adding that the official apologized to beneficiaries of the identity documents telling them they had been disabled and rendered unusable.

The city authorities have called for vigilance against such acts given that city uniforms had also been stolen by unidentified persons.

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