International call for European research on use of biometrics
A broad international alliance of civil society organisations is demanding a European investigation into the storage of biometric data. Governments are increasingly demanding biometric data (including fingerprints) from people, which are then stored on RFID chips in passports and identity cards. Some countries, such as the Netherlands, France and Lithuania, go even further and store this data in databases that can be used for investigation and prosecution.
The alliance of more than 60 organisations (including Privacy First), Secretary-General Thorbjørn Jagland of the Council of Europe urged the countries concerned to seek clarification as soon as possible as to whether their legislation on this issue complies with the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). According to the alliance, there should be an in-depth investigation as to whether the human rights guarantees and criteria regarding necessity, proportionality, subsidiarity and security guarantees required by the ECHR for the use of biometrics are indeed respected. In a recent report of the Council of Europe, this is strongly questioned.
Incidentally, a salient 'detail' is that the idea for the current European capture and storage of biometric data came about partly at the Council of Europe itself, namely at the instigation of some working groups that dealt with counterterrorism around 2004. One of these working groups was the Group of Specialists on Identity and Terrorism (CJ-S-IT) and was under Dutch chairmanship. In April 2004, this working group made the following recommendations:
"The creation or development of systems which allow identity checks with reference
Give consideration to and promote research and ongoing cooperation between police
Meanwhile, therefore, it is up to the same Council of Europe to start mapping national legislation that has gone too far since then. Where such legislation violates human rights, the relevant member state should be called to order. Privacy First views the performance of these tasks by the Secretary General of the Council of Europe with confidence.