Fingerprinting for ID cards – what can be done? #NoFingerprintIDs

As of August 2, 2021, all new German ID cards will require citizens to provide two fingerprints upon application. This mandatory measure is not only unnecessary but disrespectful to all citizens. Act now!
No fingerprints on ID cards! #NoFingerprintIDs

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As of August 2, 2021, voluntary fingerprinting will become compulsory: Against criticism from data protection and fundamental rights organisations, EU governments and a narrow majority in the EU Parliament adopted a regulation to strengthen the security of ID cards and residence documents (PDF) in 2019. A German transposition law is already being drafted. Starting August 2, 2021, this law will force people to groundlessly submit a print of their left and right index finger upon application.This means that millions of law-abiding citizens are being treated like suspected criminals. We consider this to be undemocratic and advise:

Everyone who would like an ID card without fingerprints should apply for one before storage obligation begins. For information on how to support the efforts against this new law, please see below: Take action now. NoFingerprintIDs

A pointless attack on human dignity

Digitalcourage considers this regulation to be an attack on the dignity of all people affected. This law is in violation of fundamental rights. The mandatory but groundless provision of biometric data is incompatible with the values of constitutional states and democracies, and more befitting of control hungry police states.

The legal situation

Until now, fingerprinting for ID cards has been voluntary in Germany. It is, however, already mandatory for passports. Citizens can still choose whether their new ID should contain fingerprints or not. In practice, people are rarely informed about the voluntary nature and consequences of fingerprinting. Instead, they are encouraged to submit their fingerprints in the application process without proper clarification.

From August 2, 2021, fingerprinting will become compulsory: fingerprints will be stored locally on a chip on the ID cards themselves. The EU regulation 2019/1157, which contains the fingerprint obligation, was passed in 2019 with votes from Germany. With the law to strengthen security in passports, identity cards and documents issued to non-German citizens, the German ID card law will be adapted accordingly (for more information see, German only). Anyone who currently owns a valid ID card can use it until its expiration date - there is no obligation to carry an ID card with fingerprints from 2 August 2021. We therefore recommend applying for an ID card without fingerprints before August 2, 2021, in order to be able to use it for 10 years. For more info: take action now. The issue is on the Bundestag agenda for 10 September 2020, see This may however be changed at short notice.

Note: If no fingerprints can be taken due to wear of the fingertips or injuries, identity cards without fingerprints will be issued for 12 months at a time:

Article 4: (3) "Member states shall issue an identity card for a period of validity of 12 months or less when, temporarily and for physical reasons, no fingerprints can be taken."

Why fingerprinting is problematic

In our view, mandatory fingerprinting is a mistake, as it entails political, technical, fundamental and ethical threats, but does not solve any problems.

  • Traceable for life: A fingerprint is a biometric feature that makes a person indentifiable for life. If necessary, people can change their name and place of residence to protect themselves from persecution or threats. Biometric data such as fingerprints do not allow for that.

  • Overreach instead of Protection: Groundless collection of biometric data such as fingerprints on a massive scale is a useless and dangerous attack by the state on its population. Democracies and constitutional states have a duty to protect citizens from such attacks.

  • Freedom is gradually being abolished: Surveillance and control measures are constantly being expanded and tightened but hardly ever rolled back. Without a change in policy, more and more sensitive biometric data will be collected, stored and used for all kinds of purposes in the future.

  • The risk of access extension: In Germany, police and secret services have been allowed to automatically access biometric passport photos off of ID cards since 2017. There has been little supervision by regulatory authorities. An expansion of that practice, to include the access to fingerprints, seems only a matter of time.

  • Loss of control through third country access: Through "global interoperability including in relation to machine readability and use of visual inspection" (recital 23), the biometric data can be accessed by authorities in countries where civil liberties are not protected. At this point, control over citizens’ biometric data is definitely lost.

  • Loss of control through companies: When "cooperating with an external service provider" (recital 42), private companies may also have access to the data.

  • Loss of control through secret services: After Edward Snowden's revelations, EU governments have failed to effectively limit the reach of secret services. During the NSU scandal, the so-called German "Verfassungsschutz" (literally “Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution”), who received our lifetime-acheivement BigBrotherAward, even obstructed the investigation of terrorism. Secret services continue to work unchecked and in violation of fundamental rights. Consequently, it must be assumed that they will also be able to gain uncontrolled access to the biometric data of EU citizens.

  • Risks of data networking: Politicians are already working on an EU-wide interconnected database structure for fingerprints, facial images and other biometric data, see vom 17. Juli 2020 and our own article on the matter in German. The databases of administrative authorities, police, secret services and companies are constantly growing. (See: Next Generation Prüm, Polizei 2020, Expansion of the Visa Information System or the Schengen Information System SIS II.)

  • Children are affected: According to the EU regulation, all children aged 6 and over will be registered. Individual member states can exempt children aged 12 and under from mandatory fingerprinting.

  • Illegitimate in democracies: In his German article „Zur Geschichte der Fingerabdrücke in Ausweisen“ Ralf Bendrath explains: "Identity cards in Germany go back to the "Kennkarte" introduced by the Nazis in 1938, which Jewish citizens were obliged to carry. (...) In Spain, fingerprinting for the national identity card, which is still in use today, was introduced in 1940 during the Franco dictatorship. What is now imposed on all citizens is thus clearly in the tradition of criminal regimes ." Beginning in 1942, the Vichy regime in France used the reference Jew on ID cards to deport 76,000 people in the Holocaust. (for more information in German visit: from 22 July 2018: 80 Jahre Ausweispflicht: Wie ein Nazi-Minister den Über­wa­chungs­staat durch­setzte)

  • Data security: The new ID cards containing the fingerprints are read out contactlessly. Even a storage medium that cannot be cracked today could possibly be cracked in 10 years.

Take action now!

This box has been updated on 8 December 2020
Legal action against the EU fingerprinting requirement may be difficult due to the existing legal standing at the European level. Nevertheless Digitalcourage is checking on options in Germany. You can support this effort (German language only).

In some states (for instance in Germany) it is possible to request ID cards without fingerprints until August 2, 2021. We advise everyone who would like an ID card without fingerprints to apply for one before the storage obligation begins. But: New identity cards are only valid for a maximum of 10 years. It is therefore still necessary to take action and to permanently change policy on the EU and federal levels.
Even though the regulation – and a national implementation law in some states – has already been adopted, activists can inform citizens about their options. They can also explore legal options and raise awareness of the dangers of biometric mass fingerprinting. Spread the criticism in your state!

Here is what you can do:

  1. If possible in your country: request ID cards without fingerprints until August 2, 2021
  2. Get organised! Stay informed and inform others. Support reclaim your follow #NoFingerprintIDs (German Hashtag: #PersoOhneFinger )
  3. Find out what is going on in your state. Share your information in this pad:
  4. Feel free to spread and translate information by Digitalcourage and other organisations. Here is a blog post in German language:
  5. Do not vote for surveillance parties.

We have a request: Please let us know what you did and what reactions you received. E-mail us at: or at Fediverse or Twitter: #NoFingerprintIDs / @digitalcourage

Some background information: It's not about security

Regulation (EU) 2019/1157 was justified on the grounds of security, "in particular related to terrorism and cross-border crime" (see recital 6). Mandatory fingerprinting is intended to make ID cards more secure against counterfeiting. However, according to the EU border agency Frontex, (see PDF on p. 22) the number of forged documents is already declining rapidly, due to improved technical features. The effectiveness of the regulation for the prevention of terrorism has not been proven. Investigations into the NSU murders as well as the terrorist attack by Anis Amri have shown that the perpetrators were already known to the authorities. A lack of data, monitoring and identification techniques was not the problem for investigative authorities. Sascha Lobo goes into more detail in the German article Klare Zahlen gegen Massenüberwachung on Fingerprinting of millions of law-abiding citizens is unnecessary and dispropotionate.

In our view, regulation (EU) 2019/1157 is security theatre to the detriment of the population:

A policy that attacks and sells off our freedom does not deserve the name "security policy". ... We need a genuine security policy that really does make us safer instead of threatening us. (more about security theatre at Digitalcourage, in German)

In 2019, the German government voted in favour of fingerprinting in the Council of the European Union. The governments of Slovakia and the Czech Republic voted against the regulation. The Czech Republic considered mandatory fingerprinting for all people to be disproportionate, see

Further Information

Press articles (Mostly in German)

Hintergründe / Dokumente

Take action now!

How did the MEPs in the EU Parliament vote on mandatory fingerprinting?

Image: European Parliament

MEPs who voted for (+) or against (-) or abstained (0) are listed from page 107 onwards in the PDF for voting on from „A8-0436/2018 - Gérard Deprez - Am 73“. The data is also available as .docx  und .xml. A searchable overview of all German MEPs is available on the European Parliament website, also sorted by federal states.

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About Us

Digitalcourage e.V. works for a liveable world in the digital age.
Since 1987, Digitalcourage (previously named FoeBuD) advocates for fundamental rights, privacy and protecting personal data. We are a group of people from a variety of backgrounds who explore technology and politics with a critical mindset, and who want to shape both with a focus on human dignity.
Every year we bestow the German Big Brother Awards (“Oscars for data leeches”). We contribute our expertise to the political process – sometimes without being invited.