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Fingerprints in Passports: The German Population in a Risky Experiment

24 October 2007

On 1 November 2007, registration offices throughout Germany will begin collecting fingerprints from all citizens wishing to travel.

Two years after the storage of a facial image on an RFID chip has been introduced, the project of full biometric registration of the whole population continues. Germany's Chaos Computer Club (CCC) points out once more that the ePassport has risks and side-effects, which particularly affect senior citizens.

Many older people will have problems giving fingerprints. Experience as well as international and German studies show that considerably more than 10% of all senior citizens must expect to have no recordable fingerprints.

This will inevitably expose them to discrimination through tightened inspections and longer delays. People working intensely with their hands will face the same disadvantages.

The CCC advises that only a few days are left in which passports without fingerprint registration can be applied for in German registration offices. Even people whose passport is still valid can apply for a new passport, thus evading the German authorities' data collection mania until the Federal Constitutional Court rules on the compatibility of the new measures with the German constitution.

Even according to the German government, there is no measurable gain in security through biometric passports. This is proved by the written answer to a parliamentary question.

As CCC speaker Dirk Engling says, "the introduction of this risky technology seems to be motivated mainly by the commercial interests of a few current and former members of the government - this should really be a case for the Corruptions Perceptions Index of Transparency International".

The extent of the threat posed by biometric data on RFID chips is illustrated by none other than Jörg Ziercke, president of the Federal Criminal Office. Despite all assurances by his "experts" that the biometric data is "safe", he wears his own biometric passport in a protective cover to shield it against radio waves.

The Federal Foreign Office has also shown its distrust of the security promises of the Interior Ministry: German diplomats will receive passports without RFID chips due to the "higher threat levels" they face.

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