No fingerprints in identity cards!
Since 2009, the Netherlands has had the controversial European obligation to include fingerprints in passports. Until now, identity cards have been exempted from this European obligation. Nevertheless, fingerprints were also included in Dutch identity cards since 2009. Due to privacy concerns, this Dutch obligation was abolished as of January 2014. However, the European Commission is now working on new European legislation to still require the inclusion of fingerprints in all European identity cards. Privacy First calls on the Dutch government to oppose this.
Tomorrow, the House of Representatives will vote on an important D66 motion in this regard: this motion (34966-6) calls on the Dutch government to ensure in Brussels that fingerprints in identity cards will become purely voluntary rather than mandatory. Privacy First Foundation called on the Lower House to vote in favour of this motion for the following reasons:
- In May 2016, the State Council has already judged that the mandatory inclusion of fingerprints in Dutch identity cards violates the right to privacy due to lack of necessity and proportionality.
- From various Wob requests by Privacy First in recent years revealed That the phenomenon to be combated (look-alike ID document fraud) is of such a small scale that mandatory fingerprinting to combat it is totally disproportionate and therefore unlawful.
- Fingerprints in passports and ID cards had a biometric error rate as high as 30% (!) in recent years, see https://zoek.officielebekendmakingen.nl/kst-32317-163.html (State Secretary Teeven 31 January 2013, p. 15). Earlier, minister Donner admitted an error rate of 21-25%: see https://zoek.officielebekendmakingen.nl/kst-25764-47.html (27 April 2011, p. 19).
- Partly because of these high error rates, fingerprints in passports and identity cards are virtually not used domestically to date. At land borders, customs and airports, fingerprints are not even used at all.
- Due to the high error rates, state secretary Bijleveld (Home Affairs) already instructed all Dutch municipalities in September 2009 to (in principle) not carry out fingerprint verifications when issuing passports and identity cards. After all, in case of a biometric "mismatch", the relevant ID document has to be returned to the passport manufacturer, which would lead to rapid social disruption in case of high numbers. In this regard, the home ministry was concerned about social unrest and possibly even violence at municipal counters. The relevant concerns and instructions from the Home Office still apply today.
- Currently, several individual Dutch court cases are still pending at the European Court of Human Rights challenging the compulsory issue of fingerprints for passports and ID cards on grounds of violating Art 8 ECHR (right to privacy).
- An exception should at least be negotiated for people who do not wish to give fingerprints for whatever reason (biometric conscientious objectors, Art. 9 ECHR).
For more background information, see the WRR report 'Happy Landings' that Privacy First director Vincent Böhre wrote in 2010. Partly in response to this critical report (and the large-scale lawsuit of Privacy First et al against the Dutch Passport Act), the decentralised (municipal) and planned central storage of fingerprints were stopped and abolished as early as 2011.
For further information or questions regarding the above, Privacy First can be reached at any time on telephone number 020-8100279 or by email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Update 25 September 2018: this afternoon, the House of Representatives unfortunately passed the motion rejected. D66, GroenLinks, SP, PvdA, PvdD, Denk and FvD voted in favour and the rest voted against. The battle goes on...