French minister demands compulsory biometric ID card
The French minister of the Interior Dominique de Villepin has announced
plans to force every Frenchman to buy a new electronic ID card with a chip
containing photograph and fingerprints. On 11 April the French government
outlined its plan to introduce biometrics on passports by 2006 and on ID
cards by 2007.
In an interview with the newspaper France-Soir a day later, De Villepin
said ID cards should be made compulsory again in France, after the
obligation was deleted in 1955.
IDG News reports that the current French obligation to show ID at request
is relatively mild. Citizens may present a driving license or a passport,
even an expired one, or call witnesses. A passport currently costs about
60 euro in France, while identity cards are free. “The price of the
passport will be increased a little. And there’ll be a fee for the
identity card: that’s the price of security,” De Villepin told the
The biometric information and other identifying information will be stored
in a separate encrypted block on the chip, allowing access only to
authorised officials. The chip will also contain some digitised
authentication, to be able to file electronic tax declarations.
Because the information is stored on a contact-less chip, citizens may
well be scanned secretly, a major concern of civil rights organisations.
But according to the French newspaper Le Monde the architecture of the
system consists of 4 separate central databases, and only authorised
officials may link information about fingerprints or facial scans to the
database with general identifying information. Access to the databases
will be tracked, and there will be penalties for wrongful use.
Both IDG and Le Monde provide interesting lists of ID obligations in other
European countries, following the decisions by the European Council of
Justice and Home Affairs in December 2004 and the European Commission in
February 2005 to include biometrics on contact-less chips on passports
(see EDRI-gram 3.7). The decision does explicitly not cover ID cards, but
many countries seem very happy to include the data on chips on these cards
The resistance in the UK against mandatory ID has been covered extensively
in EDRI-gram and has proven very effective so far. In Germany a paper ID
card is compulsory, to be replaced by an electronic card containing
fingerprints in the future. In Belgium an electronic ID card will be
compulsory by the end of 2006, but there are no plans yet to introduce
biometrics. In Italy, Estonia and Finland electronic ID cards are
voluntary. Italians may choose to provide their fingerprints, while the
Finnish card only contains only the holders name. In the Netherlands,
which recently introduced compulsory identification, both passports and ID
cards will contain a face scan before the deadline of August 2006, stored
on a contact-less chip. Fingerprints will be added later.
French may have to buy compulsory biometric ID cards (12.04.2005)
Le Monde: Feu vert pour la carte d’identité électronique (12.04.2005)
EDRI-gram 3.7: No delay for EU biometric passports (06.04.2005)
French government organised national debate about electronic ID cards (February-June 2005)