Digital fingerprints on German passports

German authorities have announced they will be adding digital
fingerprints to their ePassports in a bit to combat organised crime and
international terrorism. The fingerprints will be in addition to other
biometric information that their passports will contain.

Jul 12, 2007
By David Howell
L-R: PC Joe Swan, Sgt Thomas Neilson and Sgt Chris Smith

German authorities have announced they will be adding digital fingerprints to their ePassports in a bit to combat organised crime and international terrorism. The fingerprints will be in addition to other biometric information that their passports will contain.

The new passports will be issued from November of this year and include two stored digital fingerprints on the embedded chip. The chip also contains a photo of the passport holder. Unlike other European countries, Germany doesn’t have a central database of photos or fingerprints. Only those people who have committed a criminal offence, or anyone applying for a German visa have their detailed stored.

The move to digitise and store more personal data from German citizens has been highly criticised, but the German Government plans to rollout a biometric ID card by 2008. Germany is also going one stage further and using the information that the new ID card would contain to establish a national database by 2010 that would hold information including name, birth date, address, but it would not contain fingerprints or photos.

The German authorities have also passed legislation that would enable security officers to create what would be the countries largest database of personal data. The databases of organisations like the Federal Criminal Police Office and the Federal Intelligence Service are now being linked together. These moves come in the wake of the Treaty of Prum that in 2005 gave European countries access to each other’s DNA databases.

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