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EAB advocates for biometric border posts to include privacy-enhancing technologies

EAB advocates for biometric border posts to include privacy-enhancing technologies

The non-profit European Association for Biometrics (EAB) has published a position paper this month highlighting the biometric technology that can reinforce and re-establish common security and free mobility in the Schengen area post-COVID.

Border technology within the EU has been significantly strengthened by Member States in recent years to establish border control as proactive or reactive measure against the ongoing migration crisis, a string of terrorist incidents since 2015, and most recently the global health crisis.

The Association backs two main goals; augmenting the technology implementation with privacy enhancing technology (PET) and defining more robust biometric capture technology with enhanced security through Presentation Attack Detection (PAD).

EAB suggests that using biometric technologies to make the Schengen area more secure could in fact create invisible borders with the risk of constant surveillance. Moreover, free mobility through the use of such technologies is associated with various ethical, societal and privacy issues. Therefore, EAB says, there should be a legal analysis on the necessity and legitimacy to use biometric technologies, and each biometric solution should be subject to an impact assessment on individuals’ rights and freedoms.

Biometric data usage in a border control context has been increasingly popular, particularly with third country nationals and migrants; advocacy group EDRi actively campaign for tougher laws around biometric surveillance due to questions around the technologies’ impacts on fundamental human rights.

Since vaccination programs for COVID-19 began across Europe, some countries are implementing health status certificates which will rely on various security technologies such as biometrics and blockchain. As part of regaining freedom of movement, reliable identification of the traveller will also be a necessary aspect to border freedoms post-pandemic.

EAB’s suggested measures for biometric border control, would include a shift from physical border checks run by officials, to an electronic check — such as remote biometric sensors which would allow recognition on the move. Digital Traveler Credential Physical Components (DTC-PC) are being drafted currently, which would enable both cryptographic and communications capabilities and remote data storage, says the Secure Identity Alliance.

With any biometric system, it is important that accuracy is not biased towards a particular population subgroup of ethnicity, disability, age range or other characteristic. Furthermore, proper knowledge and understanding of deployment and operation of these technologies is crucial to the resulting ethical and legal outputs. In order for the systems to be inclusive, and not dependent on contextual environments, EAB recommends that other alternatives like paper-based credentials, which could be enhanced with a privacy-respecting biometric link, should be deployed.

While biometrics continue to have a notable impact on security, privacy-enhancing technologies should be made a priority as well as fostering awareness in civil society and policy makers to maximize knowledge and understanding particularly when it comes to protecting people’s rights and freedoms.

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