Schengen information system goes biometric

By EDRi · January 15, 2004

With the planned inclusion of two biometric identifiers into EU Member States’ passports and ID Cards as well as Visa to the EU, it was only a question of time when the first plans to store these identifiers in an EU-wide database would be announced.

The announcement came shortly before Christmas: Biometric data will, according to a Communication from the EU Commission, be included in the data sets referring to persons in the next-generation Schengen Information System. While the update of the present Schengen Information System (SIS) was initially justified by this system’s inability to deal with the 25 Member States the EU will have after the enlargement (SIS can only deal with up to 18 national databases), new features have been added continuously to SIS-II, making it the hub of future EU surveillance networks. The present SIS contains, in practice, personal information mostly on non-EU citizens who have been denied access to the EU. SIS-II, which is to become operational in two year’s time, will, according to the Commission, be ‘integrated in the same architecture’ as the future Visa Information System (VIS). Europol, the EU police force, will have access to both.

Communication from the European Commission to the Council and the European Parliament: Development of the Schengen Information System II and possible synergies with a future Visa Information System (VIS) (11.12.2003)

EU Commission general information on SIS II

Statewatch: Biometrics – the EU takes another step down the road to 1984

(Contribution by Andreas Dietl, EDRI EU affairs director)