France pushes EU Council to formalize extension of police biometrics data-sharing network
The French presidency has prompted the European Union’s Justice and Home Affairs Council to formally approve a new version of an existing text that would extend the current EU police biometric data-sharing network to include face biometrics information.
For context, the so-called ‘Prüm II’ Regulation’ would allow police forces to share their records – including face biometrics information – in order to enable cross-country searches of criminals and suspects in criminal investigations.
Now, the French government is pushing for the rules to be approved on 10 June via a new proposal document, published by Statewatch.
While maintaining a large part of the original text intact, the paper suggests a number of amendments, including a line specifying that the new regulation should build “upon existing procedures for the automated search of data.”
Additionally, the document calls for the cross-border sharing of driving license data, lacking in the original proposal, as well as for a wider reach from authorities in regards to categories of data that can be exchanged in an automated way, which should include “facial images (in addition to DNA profiles and dactyloscopic data), driving license data (in addition to vehicle registration data) and police records.”
The new proposal also clarifies specific rules for the automated searching of DNA profiles.
“Member States should, at the initial connection to the router, send all their DNA profiles for comparison to all other Member States and Europol,” the document reads.
“Once this initial automated search […] has been performed, Member States should have the possibility to repeat automated searches by comparing all DNA profiles at a later stage, to ensure that matches have not been missed since the initial automated search.”
In terms of details for the automatic collection of biometric data, the document suggests that fingerprint identification and facial image recognition systems should “use biometric templates comprised of data derived from a feature extraction of actual biometric samples.”
At the same time, to increase security, “biometric templates should be obtained from biometric data but it should not be possible to obtain that same biometric data from the biometric templates.”
Moreover, “the router should rank if decided by the requesting Member State and where applicable according to the type of biometric data, the replies from requested Member State(s) or Europol, by comparing the biometric data used for querying and the biometric data supplied in the answers by the requested Member State(s) or Europol.”
The proposal also highlights the importance of data quality when it comes to searches for biometric data.
“In order to ensure that the data transmitted are of sufficient quality, a minimum quality standard should be established to minimize adverse effects on uninvolved persons by reducing false positives.”
Despite push-back at home against biometrics in public places and for surveillance, French authorities are notably pro-biometrics. Most recently, the French Senate’s Law Commission published a report which proposes a three-year regulatory sandbox for trialing extensive biometric surveillance. This comes amid growing resistance to biometric surveillance in Europe and advice from European data regulators to strengthen precautions around its use in the upcoming AI Act.