Feeds

Civil liberty group pans EU biometrics plans

Commerce ahead of privacy

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

Intelligent flash storage arrays

Civil liberties groups have condemned an EU study on the possible social impact of biometric technologies – including fingerprint, iris and face recognition – as "technologically determinist" and say it puts economics and profit above liberties and privacy.

The report (pdf) from the European Union's joint research centre (JRC) describes biometrics as "inevitable and necessary". The report concludes that if biometrics is going to be the technology du jour, Europe might as well be at the forefront of the field, and get stuck in selling the stuff as quickly as possible, according to civil liberties campaigners, Statewatch.

Statewatch points to "grave reservations" held by experts in the field. For example, professor of law at Brussels University, Paul de Hert, notes that the technology systems are not properly understood. He wrote: "There are no empirical data about the current performance of the existing systems as there are no precise data about why new systems and facilities are needed".

Julian Ashbourn, chairman of the International Biometric Foundation, is also unconvinced. He warns that in implementing cross-border biometrics, nations will lose control of the data held on their citizens: "The provisions of national data protection acts become meaningless when data crosses national borders. Furthermore, the ability of the individual to challenge incorrect assumptions with respect to their own data is highly questionable," he writes.

So in the face of these kind of questions, how does the JRC explain its wholehearted support of implementing biometrics? Well, it's a great business opportunity. Once everyone is used to being fingerprinted for their passports, they'll be happy to be fingerprinted for everything: "Once the public becomes accustomed to using biometrics at the borders, their use in commercial applications will follow".

Implementation of biometric passports could create "a vibrant European industry sector," the report says, calling on governments to kickstart a "competitive supply market".

The report is not without more cautionary notes, however. It recognises that the technology does have its limitations, and makes reference to several areas where more research is needed, calling for large scale field trials, as information on how biometrics would work in a large population is "limited". ®

Related stories

Privacy 'Dark Ages' force activist rethink
Security and interop issues cause EU biometric passport delays
Brits voice fraud fears over high-tech voting
Select Committee criticises ID Cards Bill

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

More from The Register

next story
The 'fun-nification' of computer education – good idea?
Compulsory code schools, luvvies love it, but what about Maths and Physics?
Facebook, Apple: LADIES! Why not FREEZE your EGGS? It's on the company!
No biological clockwatching when you work in Silicon Valley
Happiness economics is bollocks. Oh, UK.gov just adopted it? Er ...
Opportunity doesn't knock; it costs us instead
Lords take revenge on REVENGE PORN publishers
Jilted Johns and Jennies with busy fingers face two years inside
Ex-US Navy fighter pilot MIT prof: Drones beat humans - I should know
'Missy' Cummings on UAVs, smartcars and dying from boredom
Yes, yes, Steve Jobs. Look what I'VE done for you lately – Tim Cook
New iPhone biz baron points to Apple's (his) greatest successes
Sysadmin with EBOLA? Gartner's issued advice to debug your biz
Start hoarding cleaning supplies, analyst firm says, and assume your team will scatter
Edward who? GCHQ boss dodges Snowden topic during last speech
UK spies would rather 'walk' than do 'mass surveillance'
Doctor Who's Flatline: Cool monsters, yes, but utterly limp subplots
We know what the Doctor does, stop going on about it already
prev story

Whitepapers

Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Why and how to choose the right cloud vendor
The benefits of cloud-based storage in your processes. Eliminate onsite, disk-based backup and archiving in favor of cloud-based data protection.
Three 1TB solid state scorchers up for grabs
Big SSDs can be expensive but think big and think free because you could be the lucky winner of one of three 1TB Samsung SSD 840 EVO drives that we’re giving away worth over £300 apiece.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.