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NGOs call for halt to biometric passports

7 April, 2004

Over forty non-governmental organisations from around the world signed an open letter to the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) on 30 March 2004.

Privacy International (an EDRI member) and the American Civil Liberties Union wrote the letter calling on the ICAO to reconsider its standards-setting on biometric travel documents.

The ICAO proposes that all passports worldwide implement RFID chips to support face-scanning, and possibly other forms of biometric data, including fingerprinting and iris scanning. This information would be collected at the national level, but then compared to and possibly stored in international databases. Already the EU has proposed to build on the idea in order to create a central register of fingerprints of all EU passport and visa holders.

New EU-plans to promote broadband access

11 March, 2004

The European Telecom ministers have welcomed new action plans from the Commission to promote broadband access in Europe. The Commission calls on Member States who have not yet put in place a national broadband strategy to do so without delay, with a focus on delivering broadband in under-served areas via a variety of platforms. This summer the Commission is due to report about the progress on the different broadband strategies to both Council and Parliament.

The European Commission sees information and communication technologies as key factor for economical growth and improvement of productivity in Europe. On 3 February 2004, the Commission adopted the Communication "Connecting Europe at high speed: Recent developments in the sector of electronic communications". This report sums up a number of actions still

EU to promote research track & trace technology

27 February, 2004

According to a new Communication on the research into security, the European Commission plans to fund research on "tagging, tracking and tracing devices ... that improve the capability to locate, identify and follow the movement of mobile assets, goods and persons".

The Commission announces the launch of a new funding program entitled 'Enhancement of the European industrial potential in the field of Security research 2004 - 2006'.

The program is a so-called 'Preparatory Action'. It should set the agenda for advanced security research from 2007 onwards. The action is funded with 15 million Euro in 2004 and approx. 65 million Euro overall.

Among the goals of the research is the improvement of 'situation awareness'. Relevant issues for the different projects are identified as "(...) Demonstration of the appropriateness and acceptability of tagging, tracking and tracing devices by static and mobile multiple sensors that improve the capability to locate, identify and follow the movement of mobile assets, goods and persons, including smart documentation (e.g. biometrics, automatic chips with positioning) and data analysis techniques (remote control and access)."

Major European companies into RFID-development

27 February, 2004

The European commercial interest in the development of spy-chips (RFIDs) is growing rapidly. Radio Frequency Identifiers are very small wireless chips that can be read without touching them.

Intel and Siemens have just announced they will open an 'RFID Technology Centre' in Germany in March, near Munich. The companies wish to present 'experience-able RFID-technology', to show the usability of the mini-chips in logistics, in supply-chain processes, and last but not least, in customer relationship management.

Earlier this month IBM and Philips also announced a partnership to develop and use RFID-tags. Within this collaboration, Philips will produce the chips, while IBM takes care of the computer-systems and services. They will start their collaboration in a Philips semiconductor factory in Taiwan, where they will put the spy-chips on cartons and packaging materials.

EU Commission proposal for biometrics in passports

27 February, 2004

The European Commission has adopted a proposal for a Council Regulation that will set legally binding minimum standards for harmonised security features, including biometric identifiers, in all EU passports.

The Commission chooses facial images as a mandatory biometric identifier for passports. Fingerprints can be added as an option at the discretion of Member States. The proposal sets out the minimum standards and will not stop Member States that wish to go further.

Inclusion of a facial image on a contact-less chip would allow EU Member States to meet the requirements of the US Visa Waiver programme in conformity with standards of the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO). The US demands the inclusion of facial images in passports from EU countries in order to continue participation in its Visa Waiver programme after October 2004. Justice and Home Affairs Commissioner Antonio Vitorino will travel to the US in May to discuss the looming deadline with US officials. However, for the US to change the October deadline is almost impossible. It would have to go through Congress as it would require a change in the legislation.

Spy-chips discovered in German loyalty cards

11 February, 2004

After a tour in the Future Store of the German Metro concern, privacy advocate Katherine Albrecht discovered spy-chips with unique numbers in the customer loyalty cards. She also found RFID tags on products sold in the store that were not completely de-activated after the purchase.

Albrecht, founder of CASPIAN (Consumers Against Supermarket Privacy Invasion and Numbering) was invited by the German civil liberty group Foebud to lecture about RFIDs and visit the Future Store, that was opened last year to test experimental RFID applications on live shoppers. "We were shocked to find RFID tags in Metro's 'Payback' loyalty card," said Albrecht. "The card application form, brochures, and signage at the store made no mention of the embedded technology and Metro executives spent several hours showing us the store without telling us about it."

Dutch parliament questions crypto telephone

3 December, 2003

The presentation of a crypto mobile telephone has stirred some controversy in the Netherlands. The Cryptophone has been developed in the Netherlands and is sold through a German company. The device is a combined GSM and organiser running Windows Pocket PC. The software encrypts the call when connecting to another Cryptophone. The Cryptophone should make it impossible for any third-party, including the phone company and police, to listen to the call.

The Dutch christian-democrat Member of Parliament Haersma-Buma has asked the Dutch government if there is a possibility of forbidding the phones, since they can make it impossible for police to use the information from a wiretapped mobile phone call. Dutch police relies heavily on phone interception with an estimated 12.000 phone taps per year. This number is

Irish Labour Party wants to stop e-voting

3 December, 2003

The Irish Labour Party is urging suspension of e-voting until major flaws are fixed. Ireland is planning to completely changeover to electronic voting in June 2004, for both local and European elections.

According to a report commissioned by the party the major defects are:

- An integrated end-to-end test of the entire system has not yet been conducted, only a partial test;

- The source code is not available, but code reviews indicate that certain formal methods have not been used to prove the accuracy of the software;

- It is possible to load the Microsoft Access database on the vote-counting computer with pre-prepared data. In addition vote information is transferred between PCs at the Count Centre on floppy discs. It would not be difficult to exchange discs.

- Unauthorised persons could produce an alternative version of the NEDAP

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