Fingerprinting for ID cards – what can be done? #NoFingerprintIDs
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 bmi.bund.de, 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 bundestag.de. 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 netzpolitik.org 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: lto.de 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!
Legal action against the EU fingerprinting requirement may be difficult due to the existing legal standing at the European level. But: There is considerable potential in taking action against the German transposition law, which will probably be read in the Bundestag in autumn 2020.
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. If you want to take action, here is what you can do:
1. Write to your member of the Bundestag, explaining your reasons for opposing mandatory fingerprinting for ID cards. Ask them to speak out and vote against the German transposition law. The obligation is contained in the draft of the law to strengthen security in passports, identity cards and documents issued to non-German citizens, see bmi.bund.de (German only). The issue is currently on the agenda for 10 September 2020. You can find a list of members with contact information on bundestag.de, sortable by federal state, postal code and constituency.
Important to know: Because mandatory fingerprinting pertains to an EU regulation to which German laws are only adapted, it is unfortunately unlikely that the Bundestag will have the courage to change course. Nevertheless, we believe that this law must be met with vocal criticism and broad rejection from the public.
Primary responsibility lies with the respective EU member states‘ governments and the members of the European Parliament. In the info box we have linked, you can find out who voted how in 2019. A searchable overview of all German MEPs can be found on the EU Parliament website, also sorted by federal states.
2. Help spread the word, via e-mail, websites, messenger groups and social media: #NoFingerprintIDs
3. 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: firstname.lastname@example.org 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 frontex.europa.eu 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 netzpolitik.org. 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 votewatch.eu.
Press articles (Mostly in German)
- heise.de vom 4.4.2019: „EU-Parlament beschließt Speicherpflicht für Fingerabdrücke im Personalausweis“
- netzpolitik.org am 4.4.2019: Speicherpflicht: Bald Fingerabdrücke in allen Personalausweisen
- Digitalcourage am 22.02.2019: EU-Personalausweis: EU will Fingerabdrücke von allen Bürger.innen nehmen
- Digitalcourage: 8.4.2019: EU-Datenbanken: Wenn verfehlte Sicherheitspolitik die Schwächsten trifft.
- statewatch.org: 8.3.2019: Open letter to MEPs: oppose mandatory fingerprinting for national identity cards
- sueddeutsche.de: 19.2.2019, Heribert Prantl: Personalausweise: Der Bürger als Risikofaktor
- sueddeutsche.de: 11.2.2019, Karoline Meta Beisel und Kristiana Ludwig: Warum bald Fingerabdrücke im Ausweis stehen könnten
- Legal Tribute Time: 22.07.2018,Martin Rath: 80 Jahre Ausweispflicht: Wie ein Nazi-Minister den Überwachungsstaat durchsetzte
- statewatch.org, 28.8.2018: Biometrics in identity cards: the Member States want to fingerprint children
- biometricupdate.com, 11.6.2018: Civil liberties group attacks EC proposal for mandatory fingerprints in national IDs
- cilip.de: 7.3.2018, Matthias Monroy: Neues EU-System zur Identifizierung mit Fingerabdrücken freigeschaltet
- netzpolitik.org: 29.10.2007, Ralf Bendrath: Zur Geschichte der Fingerabdrücke in Ausweisen
- sueddeutsche.de: 14.6.2017, Heribert Prantl: Der Quatsch von heute ist das Gesetz von morgen
- Digitalcourage: 3.8.2017: Sicherheit durch Überwachung! Ein gefährliches Versprechen.
Hintergründe / Dokumente
- Entwurf für das deutsche Umsetzungsgesetz auf der Seite des Innenministeriums, PDF: „Entwurf des Gesetzes zur Stärkung der Sicherheit im Pass-, Ausweis- und ausländerrechtlichen Dokumentenwesen“
- Verordnung (EU) 2019/1157 des Europäischen Parlaments und des Rates vom 20.6.2019 im Amtsblatt der EU, PDF: „Verordnung zur Erhöhung der Sicherheit der Personalausweise von Unionsbürgern und der Aufenthaltsdokumente, die Unionsbürgern und deren Familienangehörigen ausgestellt werden, dieihr Recht auf Freizügigkeit ausüben“
- Stellungnahme des Europäischen Datenschutzbeauftragten vom 10. August 2018
- Stellungnahme der Agentur für Grundrechte vom 5. September 2018
- Bericht des Ausschusses für bürgerliche Freiheiten, Justiz und Inneres vom 7.12.2018
- Verordnung im Legislative Observatory des EU-Parlaments, weitere Dokumente verlinkt
- Wikipedia: Fingerabdruck / Daktylogramm, Daktyloskopie
- planet-wissen.de: Kritik an der Daktyloskopie
- Wikipedia: List of national identity card policies by country
- heise.de: 01.04.2017, Detlef Borchers: Vor 30 Jahren: Erster maschinenlesbarer Personalausweis in Deutschland
- Personalausweisportal des Bundesamts für Inneres
- EU Kommission, 17.4.2018: Zusammenfassung der Folgenabschätzung / Executive Summary of the Impact Assessment
- EU Kommission, 17.4.2018: Impact Assessment
- EU Kommission, 10.7.2018: Analysis of public consultation on ID and residence cards 10 July 2018
Centre for Strategy and Evaluation Services (CSES), ‘Study to Support the Preparation of an Impact Assessment on EU Policy Initiatives on Residence and Identity Documents to Facilitate the Exercise of the Right of Free Movement’, August 2017, p.183,
Take action now!
How did the MEPs in the EU Parliament vote on mandatory fingerprinting?
MEPs who voted for (+) or against (-) or abstained (0) are listed from page 107 onwards in the PDF for voting on europarl.europa.eu 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.
► 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.