Saturday

23rd Feb 2019

Commission defends inclusion of biometrics in EU passports

  • The EU's new passports are not expected to be issued before the end of 2005 (Photo: European Commission)

Justice and Home Affairs Commissioner Antonio Vitorino today (2 March) defended proposals to include biometric data in EU passports, as concerns were voiced over the protection of personal data and the costs involved.

The Commission last month proposed the inclusion of digital facial images and possibly fingerprints on EU passports and also suggested the creation of a register containing the fingerprints and other "relevant data" of EU passport applicants.

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

The EU also intends to introduce biometric data on visas and residence permits for non-EU citizens.

Mr Vitorino said that the inclusion of biometric data on EU passports will improve the accuracy of identification and make travel documents more secure against counterfeiting.

"Biometrics like any other technology is not dangerous in itself", he said on Tuesday morning in the European Parliament during a public hearing on biometrics. "Of course I recognise that it is the use you make of technology that might endanger fundamental rights".

Privacy concerns

Various speakers raised concerns about the protection of personal data and who would have access to this information.

"The current proposals on the use of biometrics could be a step towards systematic and centralised storage of sensitive personal data, which would be like using a sledgehammer to crack a nut", said Danish Liberal MEP Ole Sorensen, who is drafting a report on this issue.

"We need to know who will have access to this data and what for", Liberal leader in the European Parliament Graham Watson said. "Striking the right balance with biometrics means making sure that we do not purchase a little bit of safety at what we later learn is an unacceptable price in freedom".

Tony Bunyan editor of the Civil Liberties watchdog Statewatch also mirrored these concerns. He stressed that people's rights should be protected and highlighted the risk of the creation of an EU-wide surveillance system.

US deadline looming

Mr Vitorino stressed that the EU is responding to the standards set by the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO), and not US demands.

However the US-imposed deadline of October 2004 is looming, after which EU citizens would require a visa to travel to the US if they do not have biometric data on their passport.

This deadline is expected to be missed by various large countries such as Japan, the UK, France, Germany, Italy and Spain.

The EU is holding talks with US officials on the issue. However, Marc Meznar from the US Mission in Brussels stressed that it will be up to the US Congress to rule on the question.

EU data verdict imminent on Romania's €20m reporters' fine

National data protection authorities from around the EU are about to make public their decision on a threat by Romania's data chief to force journalists to reveal their sources, in a case involving high-level political corruption.

News in Brief

  1. May to meet Tusk on Sunday at Arab summit
  2. Report: Russia offered Italy's Salvini €3m for EU election
  3. EU and US could 'quickly' clinch mini-trade pact
  4. Belgium to gather evidence on Syria 'foreign fighters'
  5. Dozens of Tory and Labour MPs threatening to quit over Brexit
  6. UK will struggle on free-trade deals, EU says
  7. Juncker pledges climate action alongside Swedish activist
  8. Swedbank brings in external help on money laundering revelations

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersMilestone for Nordic-Baltic e-ID
  2. Counter BalanceEU bank urged to free itself from fossil fuels and take climate leadership
  3. Intercultural Dialogue PlatformRoundtable: Muslim Heresy and the Politics of Human Rights, Dr. Matthew J. Nelson
  4. Platform for Peace and JusticeTurkey suffering from the lack of the rule of law
  5. UNESDASoft Drinks Europe welcomes Tim Brett as its new president
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers take the lead in combatting climate change
  7. Counter BalanceEuropean Parliament takes incoherent steps on climate in future EU investments
  8. International Partnership For Human RightsKyrgyz authorities have to immediately release human rights defender Azimjon Askarov
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersSeminar on disability and user involvement
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersInternational appetite for Nordic food policies
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Nordic Innovation House in Hong Kong
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region has chance to become world leader when it comes to start-ups

Latest News

  1. Brexit and Orban in spotlight This WEEK
  2. Swedish activist urges EU to double climate goals
  3. EP budget chair seeks clarity on Saudi lobbying and College of Europe
  4. Microsoft warns EU on election hack threat
  5. Brexit talks to continue after May-Juncker meeting
  6. Trump and Kurz: not best friends, after all
  7. EU commission appeals Dieselgate ruling
  8. 'No burning crisis' on migrant arrivals, EU agency says

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us