Fingerprints in passports: the German population in a risky experiment

By EDRi · October 24, 2007

(Dieser Artikel ist auch in deutscher Sprache verfügbar)

On 1 November 2007, registration offices throughout Germany will begin
collecting fingerprints from all citizens wishing to travel. Two years
after the storage of a facial image on an RFID chip has been introduced,
the project of full biometric registration of the whole population
continues. Germany’s Chaos Computer Club (CCC) points out once more that the
ePassport has risks and side-effects, which particularly affect senior

Many older people will have problems giving fingerprints. Experience as
well as international and German studies show that considerably more
than 10% of all senior citizens must expect to have no recordable
fingerprints. This will inevitably expose them to discrimination through
tightened inspections and longer delays. People working intensely with
their hands will face the same disadvantages.

The CCC advises that only a few days are left in which passports without
fingerprint registration can be applied for in German registration
offices. Even people whose passport is still valid can apply for a new
passport, thus evading the German authorities’ data collection mania
until the Federal Constitutional Court rules on the compatibility of the
new measures with the German constitution.

Even according to the German government, there is no measurable gain in
security through biometric passports. This is proved by the written
answer to a parliamentary question. As CCC speaker Dirk Engling says, “the
introduction of this risky technology seems to be motivated mainly by the
commercial interests of a few current and former members of the government –
this should really be a case for the Corruptions Perceptions Index of
Transparency International”.

The extent of the threat posed by biometric data on RFID chips is
illustrated by none other than Jörg Ziercke, president of the Federal
Criminal Office. Despite all assurances by his “experts” that the
biometric data is “safe”, he wears his own biometric passport in a
protective cover to shield it against radio waves. The Federal Foreign
Office has also shown its distrust of the security promises of the
Interior Ministry: German diplomats will receive passports without RFID
chips due to the “higher threat levels” they face.

Fingerprints in passports: the German population become guinea pigs in a
risky experiment (only in German, 16.10.2007)

German government confirms that biometric identification documents are
pointless (only in German, 20.06.2007)

(Contribution by EDRI-member Chaos Computer Club – Germany, translation by
Sebastian Lisken, FoeBuD e.V.)