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Minister evaluates fingerprints passport

So has the minister rushed into action after all?
Letter here Published by Ministry of the Interior and Kingdom Relations.

Some essential questions are unfortunately not answered.
Read here Mr Van Raak's (SP) parliamentary questions of 16 March 2010.
Read here Mr Teeven's (VVD) parliamentary questions of 19 March 2010.
In how many passports issued has there been a problem around fingerprints? And our new question: how does a citizen know if their fingerprints and facial image have been properly entered into the passport? What can citizens do to verify that when the new passport is collected?


18 March 2010


With this letter, I am responding to the request of the Committee of the Interior and Kingdom Relations for an evaluation of the introduction of fingerprints in Dutch travel documents.

In line with European regulations, fingerprinting began on 28 June 2009 for Dutch travel documents. Initially, this was done for diplomatic and service passports and from 21 September 2009 for all travel documents with a validity of more than 12 months.

In my letter of 17 September 2009 Letter to the House of Representatives on evaluation of the introduction of fingerprints in Dutch travel documents[1] I already informed you that the Ministry of the Interior and Kingdom Relations (BZK) would closely monitor the modified application and issuance process in order to gain insight into any bottlenecks that might arise in practice. The present letter incorporates the results of this monitoring.[2] of that trial was raised in the EU context. I had that done again a few months after the introduction of fingerprinting in the Netherlands. However, there is no willingness from either the other member states or the European Commission to consider whether the European regulation should start providing for an exception for the elderly.

Training staff issuers

In connection with the introduction of fingerprints in Dutch travel documents, the Ministry of the Interior and Kingdom Relations gave all officials working at the issuing authority the opportunity to undergo training. The training not only covered fingerprinting, but dealt with the entire application and issuance process. The training was offered both digitally and in class.

It was the first time that training related to travel documents was conducted digitally. The experience with it has been positive and definitely worth repeating. The training is permanently available. In fact, all issuing authorities received the training on CD. Incidentally, the Ministry of the Interior and Kingdom Relations has also made the training course available (on CD) free of charge to employment agencies that municipalities make extensive use of. This way, temporary workers, before being deployed by municipalities, can also take the training. A number of employment agencies have indicated that they will use the training material.

New equipment and software

In connection with the introduction of fingerprints in Dutch travel documents, issuing authorities have been provided with new equipment and software (the application station) by the Ministry of the Interior and Kingdom Relations. The new equipment and software was i rolled out in time for the introduction of fingerprints.

For cases where an applicant cannot be required to appear in person at the issuing authority, the Ministry of the Interior and Kingdom Relations has provided a mobile fingerprint recording device. All issuing locations have been provided with such a device. Municipalities make use of this device to process applications, for example, in nursing homes, prisons, etc, and take the necessary fingerprints for this purpose.

Facial image and fingerprints

Incidentally, the application station not only records and verifies fingerprints, but also digitises the photograph and signature. This has made it possible to provide issuing authorities with a tool for automated assessment of some of the requirements that apply to the photograph. In this case, these are the so-called size requirements that previously had to be checked manually.

The use of this automated function is monitored by the Ministry of the Interior and Kingdom Relations. This has revealed that in about 1% of the photos, the automated assessment is incorrectly corrected by the issuing authorities. The results of the monitoring will be used to engage directly with the relevant issuing authorities on the use of the application station. This is done using examples of erroneous assessments. The aim is to enable issuers themselves to identify and correct erroneous assessments where necessary.

The same line is followed for fingerprints. After all, it is important that fingerprints are recorded properly. This turns out to be quite difficult for some of the officials. Points of attention are in particular that the fingers are placed properly on the device to prevent only part of the fingerprint from being recorded. Incidentally, I note here that in the vast majority of applications, the recording process goes well.

I further notice, and this is confirmed by the issuing authorities, that fingerprinting the elderly is more difficult. In particular, this applies to persons aged 70 and over. In this age group, in relatively many cases, all fingers have to be tried to ascertain whether suitable fingerprints can be recorded.

Incidentally, the fact that fingerprinting is more difficult in the elderly had already been revealed in the biometrics test conducted in 2004-2005. At that time, it was already found that the quality of fingerprints decreases in the elderly. This outcome from the evaluation

In view of this, I have commissioned an investigation into whether adjustments can be made to the application process to facilitate fingerprinting in this group. Indeed, I see possibilities to do so by taking only one image per finger for persons aged 70 and over, rather than (see also my letter of 17 September 2009) a minimum of two and a maximum of three images. For people aged 70 and over, the recording process will be adjusted accordingly as soon as possible. Incidentally, I will continue to monitor fingerprint recording even after this measure is taken.

Since the introduction of fingerprints, a number of citizens have filed objections with municipalities against the inclusion of fingerprints and/or the storage of fingerprints in the decentralised travel document administration. The municipalities, as the issuing authority, are responsible for dealing with these objections.

Bandwidth survey

Earlier, I informed you that the introduction of fingerprints in 2009 did not affect the price of Dutch travel documents. It has been agreed with the municipalities that a new measurement of the application and issuing process (the so-called bandwidth study) will take place as part of the introduction of the fingerprints. That research has recently started and will most likely have a lead time of two months. The results of the study will form the basis for consultation on the level of the maximum price that may be charged for travel documents. I will of course inform the Chamber about the outcome of the study and the consultations with the municipalities.


Finally, I would like to raise a few points relating to the electronic nature of travel documents. First, this concerns a point that was addressed, among others, in my letter of 31 August 2006[3].

In this case, the issue is to remove the weakness in the so-called Basic Access Control (BAC) mechanism. Meanwhile, the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) has found a remedy for this, namely Supplemental Access Control. As soon as the European Commission authorises its use, it will be applied in the Dutch travel documents to be issued.

Furthermore, in addition to what I stated in my letter of 25 November 2009, I would like to[4] following, among other things, the motion by MP Peters asking the government to extend the validity of travel documents beyond five years. The introduction of the chip in travel documents has added a new dimension to the documents. On the one hand, the chip offers new possibilities for securing travel documents (an example of this is the so-called Passive Authentication Mechanism that allows checking that the data stored in the chip has not been altered), on the other hand, the chip has become an object of activities aimed at uncovering possible weaknesses in it and demonstrating how those weaknesses could potentially be exploited.

In itself, the latter is not new. The same applies in principle to the authenticity features of physical travel documents. Yet there are differences. The chip and everything that goes with it, partly also because it is used in so many products, is an object of ongoing study and testing for scientists, testing laboratories, etc. In this community, of course, there is a continuous search for new and increasingly sophisticated instruments to perform tests on the chip. Partly because of the increasing use of chips, this will show a further acceleration in the coming period, also creating more opportunities to identify potential weaknesses.

As a result, I have to face the fact that chips that have successfully passed tests before may discover weaknesses in new tests (conducted by more sophisticated means) that were not found in previous tests. In other words, guarantees for the future based on results of past tests cannot actually be given.

All countries issuing electronic travel documents will, in the "rat race" against misuse/fraud of travel documents (and the data stored in them), have to accept this reality. It entails constant testing to detect new vulnerabilities as early as possible so that measures can be taken against them. Measures that can then be implemented in newly issued travel documents as soon as possible. This is also what the Ministry of the Interior and Kingdom Relations does by frequently commissioning tests from expert bodies at home and abroad.



Drs A.Th.B. Bijleveld-Schouten

[1] TK 2009-2010, 31 324 no 23

[2] TK 200402005, 25764 no 27

[3] TK 2005-2006, 25 764 no 30

[4] TK 2009-2010, 25 764 no 41