EP Rapporteur sceptic about biometrics in ID-cards

By EDRi · December 3, 2003

Ole Sorensen, the Rapporteur for the European Parliament on two proposals
for Council Regulations to include biometric identifiers into visas and ID
cards, is questioning the proportionality and the adequacy of this measure
to enhance security standards of EU travel documents. In a Working
Document discussed at an internal meeting with the shadow rapporteurs of
the political groups, Sorensen criticises the Commission and the Council
for not even being able to enumerate the number of falsified visas,
passports and ID cards, which still have to serve as a justification for
the biometrics proposal. He recalls that visas are already well protected
by numerous technical features: “a sign consisting of nine ellipses in a
fan-shape, a kinegram (an optically variable mark), a logo, the appearance
of the word ‘visa’ in optically variable colouring depending on the angle
of view etc. The visa itself is placed in the passport in a way that does
not allow its removal and use in another passport.”

Sorensen also questions the need for two biometric identifiers instead of
just one: “Normally one would assume that a trained border control
official should be able to check whether the person in front of him is the
one on the visa and / or the chip and the passport.” The Rapporteur
criticises the Commission for not being able to tell what the proposal
will cost: “The implementation of the proposal will be very expensive for
Member States…” He is afraid that at the end – because of the high
costs – Member States will be tempted to increase the costs of visas,
which could ultimately result in third country nationals forced into
illegal ways of entering the Union’s territory. Concerning Data
Protection, Sorensen praises the Commission proposal for being
‘surprisingly honest’ by pointing out that the supervisory authorities are
currently under-resourced for their wide range of tasks… “Although very
honest, the language used is suggesting: Well, it is a problem but it is
one of Member States and we cannot do anything about it.”
Unfortunately, the proposal is in the Consultation Procedure, which means
the Parliament can’t do anything to stop it.

Proposal for a Council Regulation amending Regulation (EC) 1683/95 laying
down a uniform format for visas

Article 29 – Data Protection Working Party – Working document on biometrics