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EU countries have right to record biometrics on ID cards, says top court adviser

EU countries have right to record biometrics on ID cards, says top court adviser

The European Union’s top court is soon set to decide on whether including fingerprint data on identity cards is against EU regulation. A new non-binding legal opinion by the court’s adviser issued last week confirms that European member states can ask for this type of data for issuing ID cards.

The case dates to 2021 when a German citizen from the city of Wiesbaden applied for a new ID card but refused to hand over fingerprint biometrics. The city authorities, however, declined to issue new identification as EU member states have been required by law to include fingerprint data on ID cards since 2021.

The case has since climbed all the way to the European Court of Justice which is set to decide whether the obligation to take fingerprint biometrics and store them in ID cards is in accordance with other EU laws, including the bloc’s Charter of Fundamental Rights and its data privacy law, the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). The case was brought by campaign group Digitalcourage.

The European Court of Justice Advocate General Laila Medina said in her opinion that the mandatory collection of fingerprint data in German ID cards is valid. The law mandating fingerprint collection for ID cards was created to allow the free movement of EU citizens within member states with ID cards now used instead of passports across the continent, she writes in the decision. Medina also cross-checked the law with GDPR rules.

While the advocate general’s opinion is not binding for the court, their conclusions are often taken into consideration by the court.

The campaign group has argued that the obligation to store fingerprints is not compatible with the fundamental right to respect private and family life and personal data. The ID cards store “full images” of the fingerprints on their chips, which Digitalcourage argues contradicts the GDPR’s principle of data minimization.

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