Magazine article European Social Policy

Schengen Information System : Meps Wary of Using Biometrics in Sis II

Magazine article European Social Policy

Schengen Information System : Meps Wary of Using Biometrics in Sis II

Article excerpt

Niggling doubts remain among MEPs about using biometrics identifiers like fingerprints to identify people in SIS II, the revamped Schengen Information System, being set up. In the European Parliament's Civil Liberties Committee on 18 April, rapporteur Carlos Coelho (EPP-ED, Portugal) clashed with the European Commission official dealing with the dossier over the issue. Mr Coelho is nevertheless keen to clinch a first-reading deal with the Council on SIS II at to enable the new member states to join the Schengen zone. But some of his colleagues are in less of a hurry, given SIS II's data protection and security implications.

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Frank Paul from the Commission's Justice, Freedom and Security DG criticised Mr Coelho's amendment that rules out the possibility of searching the database solely on the basis of biometric data. Mr Paul said biometric searches (i.e. entering someone's fingerprints or photograph into the system and not just their name) would help police "distinguish the goodies from the baddies". Defending the amendment, Mr Coelho said not everyone in SIS was a criminal and that Mr Paul had used "bad examples" to justify his arguments. German liberal MEP Alexander Alvaro argued against using biometric data for the time being as it had a "false match rate" of 60-70%.

The other major concern for MEPs is whether SIS II will be secure enough. Dutch Socialist Edith Mastenbroek had doubts about letting member states make national copies of the database. Mr Paul said the Commission was "agnostic" on the question but that some member states were insisting they be able to make copies because they have about five different police agencies. He said he hoped member states would gradually phase out the national copies when they saw how expensive it was to maintain. As for the physical security of SIS II, he reassured MEPs that "even if there was an atomic attack on the EU, it would still work". …

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