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(Apr 02, 2008) On March 26, 2008, the European Union Data Protection Supervisor (EDPS), Peter Hustinx - who is in charge of safeguarding the personal data and the right to privacy of EU citizens - issued an opinion expressing his concern and raising a red flag over the European Commission's proposal on harmonization of security features on passports across the European Union. The proposal, which was introduced in October 2007, would require Member States to take measures to introduce biometric features, including fingerprinting, on passports and travel documents. The fingerprints would be stored in a centralized database.

The EDPS's main argument against the proposal is that it fails to adequately safeguard the right to privacy of EU citizens. In particular, he criticized the lower and upper age limits for persons to be fingerprinted. The proposal exempts children who are less than six years old and the elderly who are older than 79 years of age. The EDPS contends that the age limit for children should be raised to 14 to be in line with international standards. As for the elderly, he points out that fingerprints of older people become less reliable with age. The storing of fingerprints in a database would eventually also raise problems, he argues, unless the Commission took measures to ensure adherence to the strict EU rules on privacy and personal data.

The EDPS further commented that the Commission failed to consult with his office prior to submitting the proposal, as required by EU law. (EU Data Protection Chief Criticizes Fingerprint Plan, EUOBSERVER, Mar. 27, 2008, available at

Author: Theresa Papademetriou More by this author
Topic: Right to privacy More on this topic
 Administrative law and regulatory procedures More on this topic
Jurisdiction: European Union More about this jurisdiction

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Last updated: 04/02/2008