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Border biometrics strategies planned through EU consultation, Australia RFI

Frontex Fundamental Rights Strategy for border published
Border biometrics strategies planned through EU consultation, Australia RFI

Government border agency consultations in the EU and Australia are looking into new biometric technologies to replace their respective legacy tools.

Biometrics for the future of travel

The European Border and Coast Guard Agency (Frontex) has held a meeting with consultancy Steinbeis 2i to discuss how emerging biometric technologies can facilitate smooth processes at the EU’s external borders.

The meeting saw the discussion and commission of a research study that will be led by Steinbeis 2i and its three subcontracted partners 4CF, ERREQUADRO, and WAT.

The project was initially commissioned in December 2020 as part of an open procurement procedure for the provision of a Technology Foresight Research Study on Biometrics for the Future of Travel.

Started by Steinbeis 2i and its partners in late-January, the project is expected to last up to eight months.

During the online meeting, the research team discussed project plans, activities, and expected outcomes, including the development of a tailored foresight methodology and supporting tools, together with a biometrics taxonomy, and experts’ consultation activities.

Following the end of the project, the ensuing technologies will be deployed by Frontex operators, as well as additional partners interested in the application of new biometric tools.

Frontex publishes Fundamental Rights Strategy

Frontex has also finalized and published its Fundamental Rights Strategy, a document outlining the principles protecting the fundamental rights in the performance of the daily tasks of its operators.

According to the new document, “protection and promotion of fundamental rights are unconditional and overarching components of effective European Integrated Border Management (EIBM).”

In this light, the report describes a number of guiding principles designed to protect the rights of individuals, particularly in relation to migratory challenges, vulnerable persons, and children.

These include equality and non-discrimination policies, gender equality, and transparency in the handling of personal data, including biometrics.

In fact, according to the report, the “collection of biometric data, such as fingerprints, shall be performed only when authorized by law and with respect for the integrity of the person, with the provision of sufficient and adequate information.”

Such data should also be collected only voluntarily and not through the use of force, and in a culturally sensitive manner that respects the EU and international legal framework.

The report also specifies that, in the case of fingerprint collection from children, that should only be performed “only in a child-friendly manner and with due consideration for the rights associated with the age of the child.”

Frontex’s Fundamental Rights Strategy is part of the Agency’s multiannual program of work, and together with a related Strategy implementation plan will be reviewed and evaluated on the basis of results and feedback provided by key stakeholders.

Australia issues mobile biometric scanners RFI

A request for information (RFI) has been launched by Australia’s Department of Home Affairs to review its options for portable handheld biometric devices it can provide to Australian Border Force (ABF) officers.

The devices are expected to give ABF officers both fingerprint and face biometric collection and matching capabilities, and replace a range of existing tools currently in use, according to iTnews.

The ABF currently uses handheld biometric devices in airports, and different mobile devices or desktop units at seaports and overseas refugee camps.

Home Affairs explains that it has a number of biometric solutions in operation, but they tend to be limited to enrollment or verification, and not able to perform both functions. Portable fingerprint scanners hooked up to iPhones have been used by ABF at airports since 2017, providing checks against law enforcement and immigration databases. The force also uses some laptops and scanners mounted on carts.

The department would like to replace these devices with a single, flexible biometric device running an in-house application on Windows.

The RFI specifies that Home Affairs is seeking up to 200 devices, all with built-in cameras and on- or offline functionality.

Testing of new devices is scheduled for June, 2021.

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