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Identity cards: there is still time to oppose the EU's 'fingerprinting Regulation'
5.3.19
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On 11 March the European Parliament's civil liberties committee (LIBE) will vote on the proposed 'fingerprinting Regulation', which will make it mandatory for all national identity cards in the EU to include two fingerprints and a biometric photograph.

The full-text of the Regulation as agreed between the Parliament and the Council in secret trilogues: Proposal for a Regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council on strengthening the security of identity cards of Union citizens and of residence documents issued to Union citizens and their family members exercising their right of free movement - Confirmation of the final compromise text with a view to agreement (Council document 6402/19, LIMITE, 22 February 2019, pdf)

MEPs in the LIBE committee, who are due to vote on the text on the evening of 11 March, can be contacted via the European Parliament website (link).

The relevant provision is contained in Article 3:

"5. Identity cards shall include a highly secure storage medium which shall contain a facial image of the holder of the card and two fingerprints in interoperable digital formats."

The Parliament's negotiating position supported optional fingerprinting, but as the introduction to the compromise text produced by the Council (6402/19, pdf) notes:

"the compromise text maintains all the key elements of the Council negotiating mandate, most notably:
• the compulsory inclusion of fingerprints on ID cards;
• the 24-month date of application;
• the 10 year phase-out period for non-compliant ID cards, coupled with a number of derogations for cards which do not meet the minimum security standards set out in ICAO specifications, which do not include a functional machine-readable zone, or which were issued to persons aged 70 and above;
• the ability of Member States to set up and maintain biometric databases in line with national legislation."

As Statewatch has long-pointed out, the Commission's own impact assessment recommended that excluding mandatory fingerprinting from the proposals was the most "efficient and proportional" policy option available.

Furthermore, there has been no attempt by the Commission (or the Council) to demonstrate the necessity and proportionality of the fingerprinting proposal.

Yet because the proposal infringes on fundamental rights, it is the legislators' responsibility to prove those infringements "are necessary and genuinely meet objectives of general interest recognised by the Union or the need to protect the rights and freedoms of others" (Article 51(1), Charter of Fundamental Rights).

If the Regulation is approved as it stands, it will affect 370 million people, some 85% of the EU's population - all EU citizens living in a Member State which produces a national identity card, whether those cards are mandatory or not.

175 million of those people would be subject to a new requirement to provide fingerprints to obtain an identity card.

195 million people are already under such a requirement according to existing national law. However, they would also be affected by the new proposals, because once introduced at EU level there would be no way to reverse requirements for fingerprints in ID cards through national measures alone.

MEPs in the LIBE committee, who are due to vote on the text on the evening of 11 March, can be contacted via the European Parliament website (link).

Background and further reading

Bozhidar Bozhanov, Open Letter to EU Lawmakers Against Fingerprints in ID Cards (19 February 2019, Medium, link)

Analysis: Fingerprints in identity cards: who will oppose an unjustified and unnecessary proposal? (November 2018, pdf)

Biometrics in identity cards: the Member States want to fingerprint children (26 August 2018)

Press release: EU plans to include fingerprints in identity cards are unjustified and unnecessary (11 June 2018) and Analysis: Fingerprints in identity cards: unnecessary and unjustified (June 2018, pdf)

Prepare to be fingerprinted: new EU proposals foresee mandatory biometrics in national ID cards (18 April 2018)

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