Machine translations by Deepl, 18 Feb 2014: 'Court: central storage of fingerprints violates right to privacy'

The central storage of fingerprints as part of the new passport law violates citizens' right to privacy. The Hague Court of Appeal ruled that today in a case brought by Privacy First, which advocates for privacy interests, against the Dutch government.

According to the court, "the invasion of privacy constituted by the central storage of fingerprints is not justified". The court also considers "the storage of fingerprints in a central register not appropriate" for the intended purpose of preventing identity fraud. This overturned a 2011 court ruling. At the time, Privacy First was declared inadmissible, claiming the organisation had no self-interest in the case.

Central storage controversial

A new passport law came into force in 2009. A passport must have a chip with a facial image and two fingerprints. The Netherlands went further in this and chose four fingerprints. This was to prevent 'lookalike fraud': travelling on a passport of someone you resemble. The Ministry of Justice wanted to store all the information in a central database, to which the AIVD would have free access.

Following criticism of the large margin of error of fingerprint recognition equipment and concerns about privacy, the plan was provisionally called off by then-minister Donner in 2011. The House of Representatives did agree to a central storage of fingerprints of foreigners last year.

The State can still appeal to the Supreme Court. Privacy First will not do so in any case. The organisation called the ruling "groundbreaking" in a statement:

"This constitutes a major victory for us and for all citizens who have opposed centralised fingerprint storage in recent years. The ruling also paves the way for Privacy First or other civil society organisations to continue to pursue legal cases in the public interest to preserve and promote the right to privacy and other fundamental rights."

Source:, 18 February 2014. Also published in abridged form in NRC Next, 19 February 2014.