Article 29 Working Party criticises biometrics in visas

By EDRi · September 9, 2004

The Article 29 Working Party (all the EU Data Protection Authorities) has released an opinion on the inclusion of biometrics in visa and residence permits for third country nationals. The EU is planning to introduce biometric identifiers in visa and residence permits and to establish a information system on visas (VIS).

The visa and permits will have a contact-less chip which will contain a full-face digital photograph of the holder together with two digital fingerprints.

The Working Party expresses great reservations towards the plans, especially with regard to proportionality issues. The Working Party considers the use of biometrics to establish a more reliable link between visas or residence permits and their holders as legitimate. But a plan to store the biometric identifiers not only in the chip but also in a central database causes major difficulties.

The Working party is setting out some principles for the use of biometric identifiers. Persons should have access to the data in their chip, there should be guarantees for people without fingers and persons should be informed of the reason for rejection at border checks. The opinion also stresses the need for access control by means of encryption, to prevent unauthorised bodies to read biometric data (similar to bank card skimming). Authorised but unnoticed access to the biometric data should also be prevented.

The Working Party also stresses that non-EU member states, such as the USA, can not have access to the EU visa information system.

Opinion No 7/2004 on the inclusion of biometric elements in residence permits and visas taking account of the establishment of the European information system on visas (VIS) (11.08.2004)