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NRC Next, 2 Feb 2011: 'My fingerprint; four questions on storage court case'

On 2 February 2011, NRC Next published an extensive article and photo report on the Passport Trial by Privacy First and its 21 co-claimants. See HERE The entire article by NRC editor Peter Teffer. Below are some text excerpts:

The court rules today in a case against the state, over the central storage of fingerprints. Will those fingerprints be allowed into a database or not?

It would have been so beautifully symbolic. The verdict of a court case on the storage of fingerprints in a central database, right on Privacy Day. "That would have been wonderful," says Anne van Doorn, one of the 21 co-plaintiffs who, together with foundation Privacy First has sued the Dutch state. But the court in The Hague postponed last Friday's ruling to today.

What exactly is the lawsuit about?

Every Dutch citizen applying for a new passport has had to provide their fingerprints since September 2009. Those prints end up in the new passport, but are also meant to eventually be stored in a central database. This allows municipalities to check whether someone is trying to commit identity fraud.

The foundation Privacy First objects to the amendment to the Passport Act, which would allow this database. Together with 21 co-plaintiffs, the foundation is suing the state to prevent such a database from coming into existence. However, the Ministry of the Interior believes that enough measures are taken to prevent citizens' privacy from being compromised. For instance, only authorised bodies are allowed to request information. Privacy First, however, considers the measure disproportionate and unnecessary.

And how much chance do the prosecutors have?

Privacy First has "good arguments" thinks Bert-Jaap Koops, professor of Regulation of Technology at Tilburg University. "The Netherlands goes much further than the European directive deems necessary and the need is not obvious as far as I am concerned. In addition, central storage of fingerprints entails risks - the database would be interesting to hack."

The court may not issue a final ruling today and may seek an opinion from the Court of Justice in Luxembourg. Koops: "That could take between six months and a year." If, on the other hand, the court finds in favour of the State, and after an appeal and the Supreme Court, the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg is called in, "we are so four, five, maybe six years away. (...)"