Border Security Partnership: EU states consider unprecedented biometrics agreement with U.S.

In a letter to several EU member states and the Commission, the U.S. government threatens a new condition for visa-free entry. There is confusion in Brussels over a response. Parliament was the last to be informed about the initiative, although it concerns fingerprints and facial images.

Since the 9/11 attacks, the U.S. government and the European Union have entered into several data-sharing agreements. The TFTP treaty, for example, gives U.S. authorities details of global financial transactions through the Belgian company SWIFT. The PNR agreement forces the transfer of passenger data before each flight. Both agreements were controversial among data protectionists and fought over in the EU Parliament.

Now a new, much more far-reaching agreement in the security field is on the agenda. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security is demanding direct access to police biometric databases in the EU. The fingerprints and facial images stored there are intended to facilitate the identification of individuals in the context of U.S. immigration controls. „Border Security Partnership: EU states consider unprecedented biometrics agreement with U.S.“ weiterlesen

Prüm II: EU Committee criticises planned obligation for facial recognition

All EU member states are to network their police facial images and investigation files across Europe. This puts pressure on some governments without such systems.

The European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) has criticised plans to oblige all EU member states to set up a uniform system for police searches of facial images. The EU Commission had presented such a proposal for a new regulation in December. It is to extend the automated data exchange under the Prüm decisions to facial recognition.

In its opinion, the EESC writes that member states should decide for themselves whether to follow the extension of the Prüm system to facial recognition, which was adopted in 2008. So far, such matching is only possible for fingerprints and non-coding DNA data. „Prüm II: EU Committee criticises planned obligation for facial recognition“ weiterlesen

Disrupted supply chains: Chip shortage hampers new EU databases

An EU agency is building a recognition system with biometric data on 400 million travellers. The contractors seem to have overstretched themselves

In future, anyone wishing to enter the European Union without a visa will have to register in a European Travel Information and Authorisation System (ETIAS) via a form on the internet, providing information on the purpose and course of the journey. Only with a travel authorisation can the border be crossed. In an Entry/Exit System (EES), all travellers must then submit four fingerprints and a facial image. The biometric data will end up in a huge archive that will be merged with other databases.

In the EU, the introduction of the new information systems is known as Interoperability. Various difficulties in implementation have already delayed the project by several months, and now more complications are on the horizon. This is stated in a presentation by the French Council Presidency, published by the British civil rights organisation Statewatch. According to it, a questionnaire answered by 24 EU member states showed delays in several countries. „Disrupted supply chains: Chip shortage hampers new EU databases“ weiterlesen

Screening of travellers: U.S. wants to query fingerprint databases in Europe

To participate in the Visa Waiver Programme, Israel allows U.S. authorities access to its biometric data. The government in Washington wants to make this mandatory for another 40 countries.

The US government has sent a letter to EU member states announcing an Enhanced Border Security Partnership (EBSP). This would regulate access to fingerprint databases by US border authorities. It would be a condition for countries whose nationals can enter the United visa-free.

The German government also received such a notification via the U.S. Embassy in Berlin on 9 February, the Social Democratic Party-led Ministry of the Interior confirmed in its answer to a parliamentary question. „Essentially, among other things, this is probably intended to enable the exchange of biometric data, among other things of travellers,“ the ministry writes somewhat nebulously, adding that further details are currently being clarified. The regulation is to apply from 2027, it says. „Screening of travellers: U.S. wants to query fingerprint databases in Europe“ weiterlesen

DNA, facial images and fingerprints: German biometric police systems contain 10 million people

Police authorities are increasingly requesting biometric data, more and more often with success. The search is carried out in German and European information systems. However, the results are not always trustworthy.

Since 2008, German police forces have been able to search biometric photographs in the INPOL file at the Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA). For this purpose, the authorities use a facial recognition system (GES), which is also made available via the BKA. Currently, about 5.5 million portrait images of 3.6 million persons are stored there for search purposes. This is what the Federal Ministry of the Interior writes in its answer to a parlamentarian question by the Left Party. In addition to the BKA, the Federal Police and the State Criminal Police Offices can also use the GES. In 2021, the authorities made a total of 90,425 queries there, an increase of about 20 per cent compared to 2020. 4,990 persons were identified, compared to 4,403 the year before. „DNA, facial images and fingerprints: German biometric police systems contain 10 million people“ weiterlesen

Facial recognition and police records: European biometric systems to be expanded

A new Prüm system will make it possible to query facial images across Europe in the future, and a central biometric EU repository will also be connected to it

For 14 years, the member states of the European Union have been able to query each other’s fingerprints, non-coding DNA data, motor vehicle and owner data. The basis for this is the Prüm Treaty, which was initially signed by seven EU members in the Eifel town in 2005. Three years later, the EU Prüm Decision followed, making the set of rules for improving police data exchange valid throughout the Union. As non-EU states, Norway, Iceland, Switzerland, Liechtenstein and the United Kingdom also participate in the Prüm network.

To mark the tenth anniversary of the Decision in 2018, the Council proposed to extend cooperation to facial images. The Commission recently presented a draft for such a Prüm II. The paper is now being discussed by the member states in the relevant Council working groups, and the position of the interior and justice ministers is to be determined by spring. Afterwards, the Parliament will deal with it. „Facial recognition and police records: European biometric systems to be expanded“ weiterlesen

Prüm Framework: EU Presidency wants a European Weapons Register

In a decentralised system, the police forces of the EU member states network DNA files, fingerprints, vehicle data and soon also facial images. The automated retrieval of data in criminal investigations is now to be extended to firearms. However, a feasibility study had rejected this idea.

The Portuguese EU Presidency proposes to include firearms and their owners in the framework of the so-called Prüm Decisions. This is stated in a document published by Statewatch, according to which the 27 governments are now to start a discussion process. According to the proposal, the weapons registers of the member states are to be interlinked. The member states decided in 2008 to set up these national systems in the EU Weapons Directive.

The Prüm Decisions refer to a treaty that all EU member states also signed in 2008. So far, the networking relates to DNA files, fingerprints and data on motor vehicles and their owners. It is a decentralised system, but connected via a central server. „Prüm Framework: EU Presidency wants a European Weapons Register“ weiterlesen

Schengen Information System: Fingerprint matching now obligatory throughout the EU

For two years now, the largest European police database has had a technique for cross-checking dactyloscopic data. The proportion of false hits is said to be in the per mille range. A comparable German system contains data records on 5.3 million persons.

In 2013, the EU Commission completed years of work on upgrading the Schengen Information System to the second generation (SIS II). Since then, it has also been possible to store fingerprints in Europe’s largest police database. The European Agency for the Operational Management of Large-Scale IT Systems (eu-LISA), which is organisationally responsible for SIS II, has set up an „Automatic Fingerprint Identification System“ (AFIS) for this purpose. Its use is regulated in the latest version of the SIS II Regulation.

However, it has only been possible to search this biometric data since 2018. In this way, an unknown person who gives no or false personal details in a police check can be identified with their dactyloscopic data. This requires that the person concerned has previously been put on the wanted list in the Schengen Information System.The system can be used for arrest, clandestine observation, deportation, prevention of re-entry or as a missing person. „Schengen Information System: Fingerprint matching now obligatory throughout the EU“ weiterlesen

Facial recognition at German police authorities increased by more than a third

Millions of faces, fingerprints and palm prints are stored in German police databases. Law enforcement agencies are also processing more and more biometric data at the EU level.

The comparison of photographs by German police authorities has again increased sharply in the past year. This is shown by statistics based on information provided by the Federal Ministry of the Interior in a parliamentary interpellation. According to this, a total of 76,535 queries were made in the facial recognition system of the Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA) in 2020. The year before, there were still around 54,000 queries, so the increase is more than a third (2018: 41,000, 2017: 27,000). According to the statistics, most of the searches come from the criminal investigation offices, which is also where the greatest increase was recorded.

Since 2009, the BKA has made it possible for the state criminal investigation offices and the Federal Police to identify unknown persons with the help of the central police information system (INPOL-Z). In the database, the BKA stores photographs mainly from the identification service. The „Z“ stands for „central file“, which is kept by the BKA but filled by all police authorities. „Facial recognition at German police authorities increased by more than a third“ weiterlesen

Project Interoperability: EU to pay 300 million EUR for face and fingerprint recognition

The companies IDEMIA and Sopra Steria are setting up a biometric recognition system for the EU. For this purpose, fingerprints and facial images from five databases will be stored in a single file. Completion is planned in two years, but in an earlier large-scale IT project of the EU, one of the partners was seven years behind schedule.

The European Union has awarded a major contract for a new fingerprint and face recognition system. A consortium consisting of the two French companies IDEMIA and Sopra Steria is to set up and subsequently manage a Shared Biometric Matching System (sBMS).

The contract was awarded by the EU agency for the operational management of large-scale IT systems (eu-LISA). According to the invitation to tender, the framework contract costs around 300 million EUR. Its duration is four years with an option for an extension of up to six years. As the two contractors explain, „one of the largest biometric systems in the world“ will be created. In two years, the database will contain 400 million third-country nationals. „Project Interoperability: EU to pay 300 million EUR for face and fingerprint recognition“ weiterlesen