EU: "health cards" pose privacy questions

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At the meeting of the Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs Council in Luxembourg on 20 October the Council of Ministers agreed to amend the 1971 Regulation, which created the E111 form (and others), with a "European Health Card". The "health card" to be introduced by June 2004 will replace the E111 form, the E128 (employees posted abroad), E110 (road transport), E128 (study abroad) and E119 (job seeking). "Phase 1" will see the issuing of the new card, "phase 2" (by 31 December 2005) the end of the transitional period (then the paper forms will not longer be valid).

In what is called "phase 3: Electronifcation" whereby all the personal data currently held in paper form will be held on central databases - initially this will only hold data which is currently on the paper forms: name, "identification number", validity date etc. However, "phase 3" which could be completed by 2008:

"could also include evaluating the possibility of integrating into the card functions linked to personal health data such as access to important medical information in emergencies or records of treatment received"

The new cards will effect those who travel in the EU to holidays or work. On the other hand the appendix to the proposal shows that at national level new, and potentially more intrusive cards with microchips are planned.

Text of:: European health insurance card (pdf)

Standard EU driving licences


On 22 October the European Commission put forward a proposal that would mean every driver in the EU will have to renew their licences every 10 years. Initially it will affect new licences issued and replacements for those lost or stolen. Around 200 million EU residents have driving licences. The new licences will be plastic cards with a microchip (where a government decides to include one).

One of the arguments used by the Commission for the ten year renewal period is in order to obtain an up-to-date photograph of every driver (the photo is integrated in the card and an "image" could be held on the microchip). The rationale of the Commission is that these changes are needed for road safety and many have no checks to prevent fraud which:

"In the light of the events of 11 September 2001, this is no longer acceptable"

The 10 year renewal period will also allow the "integrating of the newest state-of-the-art techniques".

The Commission briefing says that citizens have nothing to fear from the data gathered as:

"this fear is unfounded as the EU has adopted legislation on the protection of personal data"

Such assurances will not carry much weight given that the EU Directive on data protection is being undermined at every turn "in the light of the events of 11 September 2001".

European Commission: Press release

UK to have national population register?


A little known Cabinet Committee has according to a report in the Guardian agreed that a national "citizens information register" be set up bringing together data on the 58 million people resident in the UK - national insurance records, tax, medical, passport, voting and driving licence records. The plan has been drawn up by the Office of National Statistics and the Treasury.

National population computer: Guardian (link)

see also: "Forgotten your computer password again? Press Here" article from Computerworld on how a biometric image or your fingerprint (or face) means passwords will no longer be needed for bank and credit cards or for employees to enter buildings:

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