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Switzerland: Initiative on Biometric ID Cards for Foreigners

(Mar. 10, 2010) On March 3, 2010, Switzerland's National Council (the larger chamber of the two-chamber parliament) adopted a decision to include biometric data on the identification cards of foreigners. Such data (fingerprints, facial photograph, digital signature, stored in a microchip) on Swiss nationals has been included in the new Swiss passport, issued since March 1. (Swiss Parliament Adopts Biometric ID Cards for Foreigners, NEUE ZÜRCHER ZEITUNG [NZZ] (Zurich, in German), Mar. 4, 2010, at 10, Open Source Center online subscription database, No. EUP20100304085011.) Swiss voters approved the shift to a biometric passport on May 17, 2009. (Swiss Identity Document (Passport/ID), Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs, http://www.eda.admin.ch/eda/en/home/reps/nameri/vusa/ref_livfor/livusa/i
d.html
(last visited Mar. 8, 2010).)

The measure was explained as a “technically intensified harmonization” of foreign IDs, in furtherance of the development of Schengen law (on the abolition of border controls among participating states in Europe) and as a way to reduce the risk of forgeries. (NZZ, supra.) Supporters of the measure were reportedly persuaded by the argument of Deputy Gerhard Pfister (Christian Democratic People's Party, Zug) “that one cannot constantly talk about combating abuse and then refuse the necessary tools.” (Id.) It was also seen as a means of making the Canton authorities' work of ID card renewal easier. (Id.)

Nevertheless, as was the case with the adoption of the biometric passport, some deputies opposed the stipulation that the data is to be stored in a central database, contending that the database poses security problems and that its creation is not required under the relevant European Union directive. (Id.; see also Press Release, IP /06/872, New, Secure Biometric Passports in the EU, Strengthen Security and Data Protection and Facilitates [sic] Travelling (June 29, 2006), RAPID, available at http://europa.eu/rapid/pressReleasesAction.do?reference=IP/06/872&fo
rmat=HTML&aged=0&language=EN&guiLanguage=en
; Data Protection—European Commission, European Commission website, http://ec.europa.eu/justice_home/fsj/privacy/ (last visited Mar. 8, 2010).)