After a vote in the European Parliament last Monday, April 15, the EU is set to run one of the world’s largest biometrics databases. The vote approved to interconnect a series of border-control, migration, and law enforcement systems into one big, biometrics-tracking, searchable database of EU and non-EU citizens, according to ZDNet.
The database will be known as the Common Identity Repository (CIR) and will unify records on over 350 million people. It will include both identity records like names, dates of birth, passport numbers, and other identification details, as well as biometrics like fingerprints and facial scans.
“The systems covered by the new rules would include the Schengen Information System, Eurodac, the Visa Information System (VIS) and three new systems: the European Criminal Records System for Third Country Nationals (ECRIS-TCN), the Entry/Exit System (EES) and the European Travel Information and Authorisation System (ETIAS),” EU officials said last week.
The hope with this sort of mass data integration is that border security officials will be able to conduct their duties more efficiently, as they’ll be able to search through one universal system rather than many separate ones.
Proponents of privacy and immigration, however, worry that CIR is going to create a “point of no return” as it creates “a Big Brother centralized EU state database.”
The US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and the Federal Bureau of Investigations run similar programs, with US airports recently rolling out facial recognition technology to track passengers boarding international flights (link here?). But CIR will put Europe right behind the Chinese government and India’s Aadhar system in terms of the size of people-tracking databases.
The system is largely justified by the need to provide law enforcement with better tools for tracking migrants and criminals, but it creates a slippery slope of racial bias and tracking people like tourists who have no involvement in immigration or criminal activity.