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Tunisia biometric ID card and passport law approved by parliament

Tunisia biometric ID card and passport law approved by parliament

After years of delay and criticism from civil society over lacking data protection, the Tunisian parliament voted in favor of two draft laws on biometric identity cards and passports.

The Rights and Liberties Committee of the Assembly of the People’s Representatives greenlighted the Biometric ID and Passport Laws at the end of February. The draft laws were adopted on Wednesday with an overwhelming majority voting in favor, business news agency Zawya reports.

Lawmakers also voted to dismiss an amendment that would prevent the Tunisian Ministry of Interior from building a centralized biometric database, brought to the Parliament one day before the vote.

The news was greeted with criticism from digital rights group Access Now and its civil society partners in Tunisia.

Over the past years, rights advocates have been raising concerns about the risk of data breaches and arguing that the current 2004 Data Protection Law is outdated. Groups such as Access Now have been advocating against the introduction of a mandatory biometric ID system without robust data protection and privacy safeguards.

“Since 2016, civil society in Tunisia has been sounding the alarm on the Biometric ID Bill, demanding robust human rights guarantees and safeguards,” says Kassem Mnejja, MENA campaigner at Access Now. “However, many of the demands from eight years ago remain unaddressed.”

The biometric ID project will be implemented by the National Personal Data Protection Instance. Critics, however, claim that the data protection agency lacks the statutory powers to enforce solid data privacy and security measures.

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