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EU on the road to 1984

Statewatch reports that the European Commission has produced two draft Regulations (25.9.03) to introduce two sets of biometric data (fingerprints and facial image) on visas and resident permits for third country nationals by 2005. The biometric data and personal details on visas will be stored on national and EU-wide databases and be accessible through the Visa Information System (VIS) held on the Schengen Information System (SIS II).

Another proposal for the inclusion of biometrics and personal data: “in relation to documents of EU citizens, will follow later this year”.

Statewatch summarises the proposals:

  1. biometric documents for visas and resident third country nationals to be introduced by 2005
  2. biometric passports/documents for EU citizens to follow
  3. “compulsory” fingerprints and facial images
  4. data and personal information to be held on national and EU-wide databases
  5. admission that powers of data protection authorities cannot cope
  6. no guarantees that data will not be made available to non-EU states (eg: USA)

Tony Bunyan, Statewatch editor, comments:

These proposals are yet another result of the “war on terrorism” which show that the EU is just as keen as the USA to introduce systems of mass surveillance which have much more to do with political and social control than fighting terrorism.

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1 comment to EU on the road to 1984

  • It looks like the national and international civil servants are in a bit of a mess when having to confront the issues regarding Biometric Identifiers (apart from the fact that they can be forged with relative ease)

    The US Department of Homeland Security has inherited their Immigration and Naturalization Service with its legal requirement (rushed through just after September 11th 2001) to require Biometric Identifiers on passports and visas after October 2004.

    This is pushing the UK and other G8 and EU countries to be compatible, but they are currently failing to even choose the same Biometric Identifier, let alone standardise on detailed file formats, authentication systems etc.

    The US plans to put a single fingerprint on their Biometric Passport, the UK was talking about using the more accurate Iris scan, now the EU is waffling with a photograph (which may be enough to satisfy the US authorities if it is a digitised one stored in a database) or perhaps the innacurate Facial Recognition postprocessing of a photgraph. This would be backed up by fingerprints, but do they mean a full set of 10 (accurate enough for the police and courts) or only a thumbprint?

    A full set of fingerprints will not fit easily on a cheap Smart Card, but none of these civil service committees have worked out yet if they ar4e going to go for standalone offline systems where all the relevant data is held on the Smart Card Passport, or if most of the data is held online on a massive central database, or a combination of both.

    These EU proposals are for visas and foreign resident ID cards, so the Biometric Passports may use something else entirely.

    Remember that the European standard colour for a “machine readable” EU Passport, after many years of meetings, is officially Burgundy. However each member state seems to use a slightly different shade of Burgundy !

    Even if a complete detailed technical standard was agreed today, the politicians and civil servants are deluding themselves if they think that it would be logistically possible to introduce such a massive inter-Government IT system by October 2004 or even 2005 like they are claiming to be planning..

    I cannot see that any of these systems will be efficient and cost effective at catching terrorists, but I can forsee huge expense to the taxpayers and massive inconvenience and added stress to travellers.