Saturday

10th Dec 2016

Security trumps privacy, EU court says

  • EU rules requiring fingerprints for passports do not breach fundamental rights, says the European Court of Justice (Photo: EU's attempts)

Ensuring protection against the fraudulent use of passports outweighs personal privacy concerns about mandatory fingerprinting, the European Union's top court said Thursday.

The European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruled on Thursday (17 October) that although the taking and storing of fingerprints for passports breached privacy and personal data rights, it did not breach the EU's Charter of Fundamental Rights and was in line with EU law.

Dear EUobserver reader

Subscribe now for unrestricted access to EUobserver.

Sign up for 30 days' free trial, no obligation. Full subscription only 15 € / month or 150 € / year.

  1. Unlimited access on desktop and mobile
  2. All premium articles, analysis, commentary and investigations
  3. EUobserver archives

EUobserver is the only independent news media covering EU affairs in Brussels and all 28 member states.

♡ We value your support.

If you already have an account click here to login.

Article eight of the Charter includes an explicit right to the protection of personal data, but the Luxembourg-based Court ruled that the infringement of privacy was justified because fingerprinting reduced fraud.

"The contested measures pursue, in particular, the general interest objective of preventing illegal entry into the EU. To that end, they are intended to prevent the falsification of passports and the fraudulent use thereof," stated the Luxembourg-based court.

The case was brought by German-resident Michael Schwarz, who applied for a passport in his home town of Bochum, but refused to have his fingerprints taken.

Under regulations agreed by EU governments in 2009, passports and travel documents must include biometric data including two fingerprints together with a photograph, although the UK and Ireland have an exemption from the rules.

The court also noted that the legislation explicitly states that the fingerprint data can only be used to verify identity and the authenticity of a passport.

The use of biometric data to track travellers and police border control remains a highly charged issue across the EU and elsewhere.

The US is among a growing number of countries which take fingerprints from all non-residents wishing to enter the country.

Meanwhile, government ministers and MEPs in Brussels are currently scrutinising plans unveiled by the European Commission to fingerprint anyone who enters the EU under its "smart borders" proposal at an estimated cost of over €1 billion.

The commission says the system is necessary to improve the EU's border control and would update border control checks, reduce waiting times, and help border guards implement EU border rules

Critics of the plan, which includes an Entry/Exit System (EES) that would require up to ten fingerprints and store the personal details of any non-EU citizen over the age of 12 in a database, say it is too costly, uses unproven technology and risks violating numerous privacy rights.

EU asylum return focus expands police scrutiny

EU interior ministers agreed to start legislative talks with the EU parliament to expand the scope of an asylum database, Eurodac, to include migrants and stateless people.

Column / Brexit Briefing

The Brexit picture starts to emerge

The week in Westminster and Brussels highlight the difficulty Theresa May faces in trying to keep control of the Brexit timetable.

News in Brief

  1. Council of Europe critical of Turkey emergency laws
  2. Italian opposition presses for anti-euro referendum
  3. Danish MP wants warning shots fired to deter migrants
  4. Defected Turkish officers to remain in Greece
  5. Most child asylum seekers are adults, says Denmark
  6. No school for children of 'illegal' migrants, says Le Pen
  7. Ombudsman slams EU Commission on tobacco lobbying
  8. McDonald's moves fiscal HQ to UK following tax probe

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Swedish EnterprisesHow to Use Bioenergy Coming From Forests in a Sustainable Way?
  2. Counter BalanceReport Reveals Corrupt but Legal Practices in Development Finance
  3. Swedish EnterprisesMEPs and Business Representatives Debated on the Future of the EU at the Winter Mingle
  4. ACCASets Out Fifty Key Factors in the Public Sector Accountants Need to Prepare for
  5. UNICEFSchool “as Vital as Food and Medicine” for Children Caught up in Conflict
  6. European Jewish CongressEJC President Breathes Sigh of Relief Over Result of Austrian Presidential Election
  7. CESICongress Re-elects Klaus Heeger & Romain Wolff as Secretary General & President
  8. European Gaming & Betting AssociationAustrian Association for Betting and Gambling Joins EGBA
  9. ACCAWomen of Europe Awards: Celebrating the Women who are Building Europe
  10. European Heart NetworkWhat About our Kids? Protect Children From Unhealthy Food and Drink Marketing
  11. ECR GroupRestoring Trust and Confidence in the European Parliament
  12. UNICEFChild Rights Agencies Call on EU to put Refugee and Migrant Children First