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French NGOs: no consensus possible on biometric ID-card

29 June, 2005

A coalition of 6 French organisations against the French biometric card project INES (among them EDRI-member IRIS, see EDRI-gram 3.11) remains convinced that 'no consensus is possible' to accept the project if modified according to the suggestions made by the Internet Rights Forum ('Forum des droits sur l'Internet' or FDI, a private association mainly funded by the French government.) The Forum was asked to organise a public debate about the project. The results were published on 16 June 2005 and presented to the French ministry of Interior.

The FDI organised both online and off-line debates between February and May 2005. Public meetings were held in 6 main French towns, and the online forum collected over 3000 messages from 683 unique contributors. In addition, a poll was conducted amongst a representative sample of 950

Heated debate on ID cards in the UK

29 June, 2005

On 28 June the UK government narrowly won a vote on its identity card proposals in the House of Commons, seeing its majority halved to just 31. The previous day the UK Information Commissioner, Richard Thomas, expressed strong concerns over the government's plans for a biometric national identity card and database. He particularly criticised the scheme's "disproportionate and excessive" storage of personal information and the wide range of uses that would "permit function creep into unforeseen and perhaps unacceptable areas of private life".

On 27 June the London School of Economics published "The Identity Project: an assessment of the UK Identity Cards Bill and its implications". The report looks at the potential costs and benefits of the government's proposals, and finds that the scheme may be both more expensive and less

US delay for biometric passports

15 June, 2005

The US has signalled that it will modify its biometric passport requirements for travellers from Visa Waiver countries. EU countries have been struggling to meet an October 2005 deadline set by the US to introduce new passports with biometric identifiers.

The 2002 US Border Security Act demands from 27 countries the inclusion of chips with facial images in their passports, in order to continue participation in the US Visa Waiver programme. A deadline was set for 26 October 2004 after which citizens from most EU countries would either have to present a biometric passport or a visa to enter the US. In June 2004 the US House of Representatives agreed to a one-year extension until 26 October 2005.

But most EU countries will not be able to introduce passports with contactless chips by that time. Travellers from those countries would have to apply for visa if the US maintains its demands. This would result in a chilling effect on US tourism and commerce while overstressing the US consular system with visa applications. Governments on both sides of the ocean have been looking for an acceptable solution.

French campaign against biometric ID card

2 June, 2005

In a press conference held on 26 May 2005 in Paris, 6 organisations have launched a campaign against the French project of mandatory biometric ID card. The French Human Rights League (LDH), the union of magistrates, the union of French barristers, EDRI-member IRIS, DELIS (a coalition of more than 60 French NGOs and trade unions for the defence of privacy and personal data protection) and the French Association of Democrat Lawyers have published a joint position statement and have started a petition demanding the withdrawal of the project of the French Ministry of the Interior to introduce a mandatory biometric ID card (see EDRI-gram Number 3.8).

The ministry aims to provide the whole population by 2007 with an ID card with a contactless chip containing not only the civil status of the citizen but also two biometric identifiers: photograph and fingerprints. These data would be filed in centralised databases. The card will be mandatory and would also include the address of the holder. According to historians of the French identity system, the combination of these last two features was last used in the dark times of the Vichy regime. After the liberation the civil status information of French citizens was never centrally stored until 1987, but even since then, the change of address should not be mandatorily reported to the administration, in addition to the fact that the ID card itself is not mandatory.

NGOs against international surveillance and policy laundering

4 May, 2005

On 20 April 2005 the civil liberties group Statewatch, together with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and two other NGOs launched the Campaign Against Mass Surveillance (ICAMS), calling on all national governments and intergovernmental organisations to turn away from antiterrorism efforts that are oriented around mass surveillance.

The campaign started with an in-depth report on 'The emergence of a global infrastructure for registration and surveillance'. "Driven largely by the United States, a growing web of anti-terrorism and security measures are being adopted by nations around the world. This new 'security' paradigm is being used to roll back freedom and increase police powers in order to exercise increasing control over individuals and populations." The report describes 10 signposts that clearly mark the general erosion of human rights. To some extent, all of the signposts have already been realised. To another extent, the report reads like a manual for an awesome uncle of Big Brother.

European Privacy developments at CFP05

20 April, 2005

European privacy developments and counter strategies from civil society was one of the topics at the annual US privacy conference, Computers, Freedoms and Privacy (CFP), last week in Seattle.

During the specific debate devoted to developments in Europe it became clear that while EU countries used to be known for their strong privacy legislation and oversight mechanisms, the last couple of years represent a serious set-back in human rights protection. Examples discussed included mandatory data retention, ID cards such as the recent French proposal, transfer of passenger data and biometric identifiers on passports. The mainly American audience was quite astonished about the amount of privacy invasive measures, which have been introduced in Europe as part of the 'war on terror'.

French minister demands compulsory biometric ID card

20 April, 2005

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

No delay for EU biometric passports

6 April, 2005

The United States will not allow for any further delay in the introduction of biometric identifiers in passports of EU citizens travelling to the US. EU Justice Commissioner Frattini sent an urgent letter to the US Congress asking for a delay of 10 months in introducing biometrics in the passports of all EU citizens. In his letter, Frattini states only six EU countries - Belgium, Germany, Austria, Finland, Sweden and Luxembourg - are able to meet the original deadline of 26 October this year. But on 31 March 2005 the chairman of the U.S. House Judiciary Committee, James Sensenbrenner, replied that an extension was unlikely.

On 3 December 2004 the Council of ministers of Justice and Home Affairs (JHA Council) adopted a new regulation on biometrics, forcing member states to include two biometric identifiers in passports and travel

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