The EU voted to create a giant biometric database just 1 year after introducing the world's strictest privacy laws
Pyotr Sivkov / Getty
- The European Parliament, which represents all EU citizens, has voted to approve the creation of one of the world's biggest biometric databases.
- It happens to coincide with the first anniversary of 2018's groundbreaking EU legislation to protect people's online privacy.
- The EU says the new database will make it easier for border guards and security officials to spot terrorists, criminals, and illegal immigrants.
- Critics say the new database is intrusive.
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The European Parliament has approved the creation of one of the world's largest biometric databases in order to make it easier to identify terrorists, criminals, and illegal immigrants.
The database - known as the Common Identity Repository (CIR) - will link up the EU's existing systems for managing everything from travel to border security work. Currently these systems don't play well together, and the new system will knit the disparate databases together.
The new system will pull together identifying information of more than 35o million EU and non-EU citizens, ZDNet reported, including passport numbers and dates of birth.
Further changes will allow security officials to cross-match fingerprints and other biometric information from multiple databases, and flag whether an individual as registered under multiple identities in different databases.
Politico reported that the centralized database "will grant officials access to a person's verified identity with a single fingerprint scan."
The introduction of a massive database of personal information coincides with the anniversary of the GDPR, groundbreaking EU legislation designed to protect European people's data and privacy from the Silicon Valley tech giants. As Politico notes, however, terrorist attacks in Paris and Brussels in 2015 made the introduction of a powerful data repository ever more likely.
The European Parliament says the the giant database "will make EU information systems used in security, border and migration management interoperable enabling data exchange between the systems." In other words, it'll be easier for officials to access a bunch of disconnected information about people's identities from one place.
Jeroen Lenaers, an EU rapporteur, said in a statement that the new system "will ensure faster, more systematic and more complete access to EU information systems for professionals on the ground: police officers, border guards, migration officers and consulate staff members, in order for them to do their job better."
The database was given the green light through two separate votes, according to ZDNet. One vote, for merging the systems used for issues related to borders and visas, was passed 511 to 123 (with nine abstentions); the other vote, for streamlining systems relating to law enforcement, judicial, migration, and asylum-related issues was passed 510 to 130 (with nine abstentions).
Yet despite receiving the widespread backing of European Parliament officials, the new database has faced criticism from privacy advocates who view it as Orwellian.
Statewatch, a non-profit civil rights organisation, claimed last year that the new system would represent the "creation of a Big Brother centralized EU state database."
Other databases similar to the EU's include the one used by the US Federal Bureau of Investigation, and India's Aadhaar database. Both identify their countries' citizens on the basis of biometric data.