The European Commission seeks to establish a smart borders entry-exit System in the EU. Currently under consideration, this system, reserved for travelers from other countries, could extend Biometric ID checks. These checks would collect 10 fingerprints, and possibly facial images.
In late July the commission launched a public consultation on the Smart Borders package, a program of the EU Agenda on Migration which poses a substantial risk to the public’s right to privacy and data collection. While the EU must take urgent action to improve its treatment of refugees and other migrants, it could adversely impact the privacy of everyone living in or traveling to Europe.
The first review of the Smart Borders package by the European Parliament and the Council was completed in February 2014 without success, perhaps due to the technical complexity, cost, and civil liberties implications. The commission is therefore conducting a consultation to collect views and opinions from travelers, EU citizens, non-governmental organizations, and public authorities to help prepare a revised proposal. The consultation seeks respondents’ views on the Smart Borders package, visa policies and the collection of travelers’ data.
Biometric Data Collection And Retention
The objective of the system is to help the authorities identify travelers who have stayed longer than permitted. However, once in place, this system would enable profiling on a massive scale, including the tracking of location data, and the creation of a huge database to store the collected biometric and personal data.
After collection, data would be retained for 181 days after the traveler exits the EU and for a period of five years for a person who has “overstayed”. The retained data would be accessible to law enforcement authorities for the purpose of detecting, or investigating terrorist or other serious criminal offences.
The consultation states that “access would be granted [to law enforcement authorities]under strict legal prerequisites in full compliance with fundamental rights,” however, there is no information regarding the nature of the compliance criteria, the technique used to prevent abuse, or how to ensure data security.
The proposed Entry/Exit system would be coupled with a Registered Traveler Program, which aims to facilitate border crossings for frequent and so-called low-risk travelers via a special fast-track lane. But this treat has a trick: travelers would pay to undergo an extensive pre-screening and pre-vetting procedure which includes collecting their personal data, including sensitive data. The Registered Traveler Program would add another set of data related to the traveler, in addition to the biometric and passport data, to determine whether a person “fits” the criteria for the fast lane. So it appears that we would be forced to pay to make our own surveillance more convenient, yet we cannot entirely opt out of profiling.