Thursday

18th Apr 2019

US travellers set for EU biometric dragnet

  • The pilot project wants to measure 'criteria, notably accuracy, effectiveness and impact on the border crossing' (Photo: angeloangelo)

US citizens and other non-EU nationals who enter Europe will be asked to have their faces image-captured and fingerprints scanned upon arrival at a half-dozen major airports.

The biometric dragnet is part of a pilot test of the EU’s so-called ‘smart borders’ package. Passengers can refuse to give the data for now but there are plans to eventually make it obligatory.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

A draft internal EU document dated Wednesday (18 February) and seen by this website says the “proof of concept” is set to start in March and will run until September this year.

“Should traveller participation be lower than expected, there would be a high risk that the results of the tests would be biased or would not reflect reality,” notes the multi-million euro project.

Although the launch date is set in a matter of weeks, the document is still in the draft stage and so test places may change.

However, the document lists Arlanda (Sweden), Charles de Gaulle (France), Frankfurt (Germany), Lisbon (Portugal), Madrid (Spain), and Schiphol (Netherlands) as participating airports.

Frankfurt and Schiphol will ask between four to ten fingerprint sets. Madrid will ask for four and Charles de Gaulle eight.

Arlanda, Charles de Gaulle, and Madrid airports are also set to start requesting facial image-captures from disembarking passengers.

The airport in Lisbon is ticked to perform iris pattern scans but the paper notes that “iris pattern of volunteering TCNs [third country nationals] should be captured live, at the same time as the facial image.”

The biometric screening extends to road, train, and sea routes as well and includes iris pattern scans in some areas.

Iris scans are set to be asked on roads leading into border towns Udvar in Hungary and Sculeni in Romania. Drivers should also expect live face scans in Sculeni.

Other border towns will ask for fingerprints. These include roads leading into Kipoi Evrou in Greece and Vaalimaa in Finland.

At the land borders “the traveller will walk up to the border guard or be one of the first persons to be called by the border guard.”

Participating cars and buses will be pulled aside in a waiting area for the experiment.

Border guards will also be performing fingerprint scans on moving trains from Paris (Gare du Nord) and Lasi (Romania). Travellers at the Lasi station may also be asked for facial image captures.

Seaports and moving vessels in Helsinki (Finland), Port of Piraeus (Greece), Cherbourg (France), and Genova (Italy) are also set to participate.

Medium risk on data protection

The paper says there is a “medium” risk that participating member states won’t comply with data protection rules.

It notes biometric data will need to be depersonalised, saved locally, and then deleted after analysis. Retention periods should be limited to “produce the relevant statistics and analysis.”

eu-LISA, a EU agency tasked to manage large-scale information systems used by border guards and law enforcement, is running the pilot.

It will issue the European commission a mid-term report by 15 July with a final report expected in November.

Smart borders

The commission proposed the package in 2013 but later withdrew it and is set to announce a revised version once the pilot is completed.

The package includes the Entry/Exit System (EES) and the Registered Travellers Programme (RTP).

Both rely on the collection, storage, and processing of biometric data to enhance border control checks on any non-EU national entering the EU.

EES is meant to identify and prevent people from overstaying their visas.

Visa and non-visa holders can also get a special token under the RTP system before travelling. RTP is intended to make it easier for people like business travelers to enter and leave border gates with ease.

Any legislation would have to be approved by member states and MEPs, with some deputies strongly opposed to the idea of biometric checks and law enforcement access.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank
  2. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  3. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness
  4. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  5. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  9. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  10. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic commitment to driving global gender equality
  12. International Partnership for Human RightsMeet your defender: Rasul Jafarov leading human rights defender from Azerbaijan

Latest News

  1. Romania drafts EU code on NGO migrant rescues
  2. Bulgaria, Hungary, and Malta shamed on press unfreedom
  3. EU drafts $20bn US sanctions list in aviation dispute
  4. Brunei defends stoning to death of gay men in EU letter
  5. US Democrats side with Ireland on Brexit
  6. Wifi or 5G to connect EU cars? MEPs weigh in
  7. How Brexit may harm the new EU parliament
  8. EU parliament backs whistleblower law

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNICEFUNICEF Hosts MEPs in Jordan Ahead of Brussels Conference on the Future of Syria
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic talks on parental leave at the UN
  3. International Partnership for Human RightsTrial of Chechen prisoner of conscience and human rights activist Oyub Titiev continues.
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic food policy inspires India to be a sustainable superpower
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersMilestone for Nordic-Baltic e-ID
  6. Counter BalanceEU bank urged to free itself from fossil fuels and take climate leadership
  7. Intercultural Dialogue PlatformRoundtable: Muslim Heresy and the Politics of Human Rights, Dr. Matthew J. Nelson
  8. Platform for Peace and JusticeTurkey suffering from the lack of the rule of law
  9. UNESDASoft Drinks Europe welcomes Tim Brett as its new president
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers take the lead in combatting climate change
  11. Counter BalanceEuropean Parliament takes incoherent steps on climate in future EU investments
  12. International Partnership For Human RightsKyrgyz authorities have to immediately release human rights defender Azimjon Askarov

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us