Apr 012011
 
 April 1, 2011  Posted by  Non-U.S., Surveillance

From Privacy International:

Council of Europe
Attn. Secretary General Mr. T. Jagland
Avenue de l’Europe
67075 Strasbourg Cedex
France

London, 31 March 2011

Subject: Request for explanation under Article 52 ECHR on the collection and storage of biometric data

Dear Mr. Jagland,

With regard to the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (hereafter referred to as ‘the Convention’), its Protocols, the Convention for the Protection of Individuals with regard to Automatic Processing of Personal Data, and the case law of the European Court of Human Rights, we send you this special request on the subject of biometrics.

Governments of the European countries are increasingly demanding storage of biometric data (in particular facial scans and/or fingerprints) of their citizens. These are then stored on ‘RFID’ chips in national passports and/or ID cards. Some Governments additionally store these biometric data in government databases.

Governments have given little attention to the possible threats to civil liberties. Therefore it is vital to obtain an overview of the current ‘patchwork’ of different national laws that regulate this sensitive and important subject. An in-depth survey has to be conducted on whether the human rights guarantees and conditions of necessity (proportionality, subsidiarity and safety guarantees) set by the Convention 1] are indeed upheld.

It is our conviction that the Council of Europe is the proper guardian of the fundamental rights placed at risk by this practice. These include the protection of human treatment (Article 3), safety (Article 5), a fair trial (the privilege against self-incrimination and presumption of innocence) (Article 6), physical integrity and family and private life (Article 8), effective national remedies (Article 13), non-discrimination (Article 14) and the right to leave your country (Article 2 Protocol 4).

The necessity of such an investigation has already been expressed in ‘S. and Marper vs the UK’ (2008), para. 138:

“The application also raised important legal issues and questions of principle requiring a large amount of work. It notably required an in-depth examination of the current debate on the issue of retention of fingerprint and DNA records in the United Kingdom and a comprehensive comparative research of the law and practice of other Contracting States and of the relevant texts and documents of the Council of Europe.”
Therefore, on the basis of the powers conferred on you as Secretary General by virtue of Article 52 of the Convention, we urgently ask you to request the Governments of the contracting states involved to furnish an explanation of the manner in which their internal laws on this subject ensure the effective implementation of the provisions of the Convention, its Protocols and the Convention with regard to Automatic Processing of Personal Data.

We urgently request that, given the sensitive character of the storage already taking place by the Convention Parties, these explanations be provided to you by the Governments as soon as practicable.

We certainly acknowledge the task of contracting states to provide security to their inhabitants. However, in line with ECHR ‘Klass vs. Germany’ we would like to emphasize that national biometric registration legislation (often in combination with other laws) should not “lead to destroying democracy on the ground of defending it”. 2]

We thank you in advance for your highly appreciated consideration of this petition. The subsequent use of your powers under Article 52 ECHR may well be crucial in order to safeguard some of our most vulnerable democratic values and civil rights.

Yours sincerely,

Simon Davies

Privacy International, on behalf of all signatories

(CC: M. de Boer-Buquicchio, Deputy Secretary General)

1] Sub C5, Report Doc 12522, Council of Europe Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights, 16 February 2011:
http://assembly.coe.int/Documents/WorkingDocs/Doc11/EDOC12522.pdf

2] E.g. reading biometrics from a distance with a biometric sensor http://www.technologyreview.com/biomedicine/27052/?p1=A3
and photo and video face tagging combined with surveillance cameras http://vimeo.com/19148329

See the Signatories on Privacy International.

  2 Responses to “Petition to Council of Europe On Govt Use of Citizens’ Biometrics”

  1. So far the petition to the Council of Europe has been highlighted in:

    Belgium
    http://pgzlog.wordpress.com/2011/04/01/internationale-alliantie-roept-op-tot-europees-onderzoek-naar-gebruik-van-biometrie/

    Germany
    http://www.aktion-freiheitstattangst.org/presse/unsere-themen-in-der-presse/1999-20110402-petition-an-europarat-ist-nun-online

    Lithuania
    http://www.hrmi.lt/advokacija/pranesimai-spaudai/2011-metai159/?go=349#n

    The Netherlands
    http://www.humanistischverbond.nl/nieuws/archief/2011/humanistisch_verbond_steunt_internationale_alliantie_tegen_biometrie
    https://www.hetnieuwerijk.nl/
    http://www.privacyfirst.nl/aandachtsvelden/biometrie/item/340-internationale-oproep-tot-europees-onderzoek-naar-gebruik-van-biometrie.html
    http://www.privacynieuws.nl/nl/nieuwsoverzicht/lichamelijke-integriteit/biometrie/6245-oproep-tot-europees-onderzoek-naar-gebruik-van-biometrie.html
    http://sargasso.nl/archief/2011/03/31/alliantie-roept-op-tot-europees-onderzoek-naar-gebruik-van-biometrie/
    http://johnitosdigest.blogspot.com/2011/03/alliantie-roept-op-tot-europees.html
    http://www.dejaap.nl/2011/03/31/alliantie-roept-op-tot-europees-onderzoek-naar-gebruik-van-biometrie/
    http://www.security.nl/artikel/36693/1/Petitie_voor_Europees_onderzoek_Paspoortwet.html

    Romania
    http://www.apti.ro/petitie-stopare-date-biometrice-acte-identitate

    Slowak Rep.
    http://www.eisionline.org/

    Spain
    http://groups.google.com/group/ffchs-daily-harassment-log/browse_thread/thread/9c930771cc9fd3b3

    Switzerland
    http://www.privacyfoundation.ch/de/aktuelles/untersuchung-bezüglich-erfassung-und-speicherung-biometrischer-daten.html
    http://www.grundrechte.ch/2011/aktuell02042011.shtml

    UK
    https://www.privacyinternational.org/article/alliance-raises-concerns-about-spread-biometrics

  2. This petition to the Council of Europe has been highlighted too in:

    Europe
    http://www.edri.org/edrigram/number9.7/petition-coe-biometrics
    http://right2info.org/news/council-of-europe-urged-to-make-processing-of-biometric-data-more-transparent

    Austria
    http://www.unwatched.org/20110406_Allianz_ersucht_Europarat_um_Untersuchung_zu_biometrischen_Daten

    Czech Rep.
    http://slidilove.cz/content/evropske-organizace-zadaji-provereni-toho-jak-staty-eu-sbiraji-uchovavaji-biometricke-udaje

    France
    http://bigbrotherawards.eu.org/article1237.html
    http://lindisciplinee.over-blog.com/article-petition-internationale-contre-la-biometrie-71325310.html
    http://www.secuobs.com/revue/news/297288.shtml

    Germany
    http://www.foebud.org/datenschutz-buergerrechte/biometrie/eu-petition-zur-speicherung-biometrischer-daten/
    http://www.vorratsdatenspeicherung.de/content/view/442/79/lang,de/

    The Netherlands
    https://www.vrijbit.nl/dossier/registratie/dossier-paspoortwet/item/823-zorgen-om-dat-debat-aan-essentie-van-probleem-voorbij-gaat.html (Copy of petition sent to Dutch members of parliament by Vrijbit)

    Spain
    http://www.facebook.com/note.php?note_id=214984411848384&comments

    Petition press release
    English:
    https://www.privacyinternational.org/article/alliance-raises-concerns-about-spread-biometrics

    Text also available in:
    Dutch: https://www.privacyinternational.org/node/6973
    French: https://www.privacyinternational.org/node/6982
    German: https://www.privacyinternational.org/node/6980
    Lithuanian: https://www.privacyinternational.org/node/6977
    Slowak: https://www.privacyinternational.org/node/6976
    Spanish: https://www.privacyinternational.org/node/6974

    Full petition text and signatories list
    English:
    https://www.privacyinternational.org/article/petition-council-europe-government-use-citizens-biometrics

    Petition text also available in:
    Dutch: https://www.privacyinternational.org/node/6975
    French: https://www.privacyinternational.org/node/6983
    Romanian: https://www.privacyinternational.org/node/6979

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