According to the International Herald Tribune, "European Union governments may soon issue passports containing computer chips embedded with digital fingerprints or eye scans."
The "biometric" data would allow police officers to verify the authenticity of European passports, which have been counterfeited in significant numbers in recent years, officials said at their summit meeting here.
The chips would also be implanted in visas given to non-EU citizens, making it easier for governments to keep track of foreigners as they travel through borderless Europe.
No date has been fixed for the introduction of these passports, but in order to be in conformity with the U.S. Enhanced Border Security and Visa Entry Reform Act of 2002, passports with biometric identifiers should be issued no later than October 26, 2004. In addition, the EU members already have allocated 140 million euros ($164 million) for further study of biometric identifiers.
Now, what about our privacy?
"There is a complete lack of any kind of accountability with this," said Trevor Hennings, deputy director of Statewatch, a British organization that researches privacy issues. "There's no way to know what will be on the chip."
Here are a couple of scary quotes from a column from Statewatch dealing with this issue.
The EU Summit has backed the allocation 140 million euros to developing controls at borders and of databases. This includes the Visa Information System (VIS) and the next generation Schengen Information System (SIS II).
The Visa Information System will log all applications for visas to enter the EU, the length of stay, arrival and departure date, and those to be refused entry. The SIS holds list of those to be refused entry (Article 96) and people or vehicles to be placed under surveillance (Article 99). As at 5 March 2003 data was held on a total of 780,992 people under Article 96 and there were 16,016 entries under Article 99. It also holds the names and details on a number of protestors detained over the past two years.
Source: Thomas Fuller, The International Herald Tribune, June 21, 2003
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