How EU’s plan to digitising travel documents might affect you

The EU Commission wants to store ID data on smartphones in the future and introduce contactless border controls with biometrics. This could affect all travelers in the future. EDRi member Digitalcourage submitted feedback to this EU initiative to intervene.

By Digitalcourage (guest author) · July 12, 2023

Passport and ID card – soon available only through a smartphone app? At least that’s how the EU Commission seems to envision it.

The European Commission’s Migration and Home Affairs Department (DG HOME) has launched an initiative to digitalise travel documents. Following the public consultation, this could result in a proposal for an EU regulation in the third quarter of 2023.

In its initiative, the EU Commission outlines possible options. For example, all EU member states could be required by regulation to implement digital travel credentials. This would affect all travelers if because of this physical travel documents are disadvantaged or even abolished entirely. Even if physical travel documents remain allowed, people who don’t use them could still be affected by the monitoring and processing of biometric data of all travelers, which would be required to enforce remote checks of digital travel credentials.

The German non-profit digital rights organisation and EDRi member Digitalcourage submitted feedback to the consultation and proposed three conditions that need to be met if travel documents are to be digitalised:

  1. Travellers must not be forced to use digital travel credentials. The possibility of using physical travel documents must be guaranteed permanently and not just for the “near future”, as the European Commission is proposing.
  2. Travellers who don’t use digital travel credentials must not be discriminated against. This condition includes that border controls for travellers with physical documents must be equally accessible and sufficiently staffed to enable travel checks in a reasonable amount of time.
  3. Travellers who don’t use digital travel credentials must not, under any circumstances, be affected by the border control technologies required for checking digital travel credentials. Policy options “where all travellers are monitored and their biometric data are processed”, as the European Commission is considering, must be ruled out.

Find here the full submission to the consultation on digitalising travel documents.

Contribution by EDRi member Digitalcourage