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New Revu, 11 April 2012: 'And again it's wrong with the passport'

This week's Nieuwe Revu features a critical article by journalist Casper Sikkema on the passport with # fingerprints. Below are some excerpts featuring Privacy First contributor Vincent Böhre, among others:

More and more Dutch people are refusing to give their fingerprints for the new biometric passport. The pass is said to be insecure and an invasion of privacy. Revu finds out what the situation is.

(...) Three citizens filed a case with the Council of State last week. They demanded that they be exempted from the obligation to provide fingerprints for a new passport because they consider it an invasion of their privacy.

And other critics say the new passport is not nearly as secure as the government would have us believe. It was initially believed that the Netherlands would become a lot safer again thanks to the blessings of technological progress. Through a central database, investigative agencies could catch suspicious elements more easily. And if they were caught, the Netherlands would soon be the market leader in biometrics. Everyone safer, the Netherlands richer. A few years and three scathing reports later, the government is going to remove the millions of stored fingerprints from the systems again. If all goes well.

Brenno de Winter, expert on government and technology has a clear opinion on the introduction of the biometric passport. 'Here you see very clearly that there is a sacred belief in technology in the Netherlands, where we completely ignore risks. (...)'

Max Snijder was commissioned by the Scientific Council for Government Policy (WRR) to research the introduction of the biometric passport. He was shocked by the naivety with which the Netherlands thought it could do the job. '(...) When it came out last year that a random sample in Roermond showed an error rate of 21% when verifying fingerprints from the database, minister Donner did not even seem to be shocked by this.' Snijder describes the holy faith in technology, the tunnel vision of the officials in charge and the lack of a clear goal. (...)

Vincent Böhre also researched the biometric passport for the WRR. 'Strange things have happened that can partly be explained by the fear of terrorism. Then people and also governments take irrational decisions more often.' According to Böhre, for a while there was an idea in government that drastic privacy-restricting decisions had to be implemented as quickly and silently as possible. 'It was thought that if they did it fast enough it could not be reversed later. They are finally starting to come back from that. Privacy is a human right. The government knows it can expect lawsuits if this is not taken into account.'

The danger of a government that can see everything is not vague and remote, according to Böhre. 'We are now building an infrastructure that can be abused by, for example, a totalitarian regime. Therefore, brakes must be built into legislation and technical infrastructure to prevent abuse.'

WikiLeaks documents state that the Netherlands was a testing ground for anti-terrorist legislation for America. Böhre: 'The Americans talked about us as that country where you could introduce anything you could think of. The economic stakes were high. The Netherlands thought it would make a good impression and eventually become a market leader. That image took a dent when it turned out that a quarter of fingerprints cannot be verified.'

The industrial lobby also played a major role in the creation of the new passport, according to Böhre. 'The main argument for introducing the biometric passport was to counteract lookalike-fraud. I was able to get the figures on that. They are only dozens of cases a year. How meagre to saddle the entire population with a compulsory biometric passport.'"

Source: New Review no 15, 2012 / issue 2927, pp. 10-11.