All EU ID cards to include fingerprints – EU commissioner

Compulsory fingerprinting in ID cards are aimed at countering terrorism in the bloc. A media report suggests the EU Commission will propose the measure as part of its security concept on Tuesday.

The EU Commission plans to launch a proposed law Tuesday to increase security within the bloc's borders, including fingerprinting in ID cards, according to an interview with Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos in German daily Welt.

Law and Justice | 09.11.2017

The move would make fingerprinting and other biometric elements compulsory for all EU ID cards. They are already required for EU passports, along with biometric pictures. Universal use of them in ID cards as well would curb the spread of fake documents.

Read more: India plans to issue ID cards to cows

A standard in modern forensics for 125 years

In 1891, a Croatian born, Argentine criminologist, Juan Vucetich, started building up the first modern-style fingerprint archive. Since then, fingerprints have become one of the main forms of evidence used to convict criminals. Here, a police officer spreads dust on the lock of a burglarized apartment. Fingerprints become visible.

Archiving and comparing prints

He uses an adhesive film to capture the fingerprint. Then he glues it to a piece of paper. In the past, comparing fingerprints was a painstaking affair. Officers had to compare fingerprints found at the scene of a crime, one-by-one, with those of possible suspects. These days computers do the job.

No more ink

Taking fingerprints used to be a messy affair - with ink and dirty hands. These days scanners have replaced the inky mess. And the data can immediately be sent to a database and turned into biometrical data.

Fingerprints form an identity

The computer identifies typical spots within the ridge patterns of the fingerprint. These include forks in the lines, spots and the location of the center of the print. Fingerprints are never the same between two people - not even with identical twins.

Vote early and vote often!

No chance! Here, officials use fingerprint scanners during an election in Nigeria. It's how they make sure the people voting are registered voters and that they only vote once.

Who entered Europe where?

This is an important question for officials who have to decide about the refugee or asylum status of applicants. In the European Union all migrants are supposed to have their fingerprints taken at the first point of entry - provided, of course, the local police officers are equipped with the scanners.

Hands off! It's my data!

Many smartphones now come with fingerprint recognition software, such as the iPhone's Touch-ID. The owner of the phone unlocks it with his fingerprint. If someone else finds or steals the phone, they have no way of getting at any encrypted data within.

Secure ATM banking

This is an Automatic Teller Machine (ATM) in the Scottish town of Dundee. Customers wanting to withdraw money need to show biometric proof of identity - in the form of a fingerprint. Not good news for pickpockets.

Fingerprint inside the passport

Since 2005, German passports, and many other passports, contain a digital fingerprint as part of the biometric information stored on a RFID (radio-frequency controlled ID) chip. Other information on the chip includes a biometric passport photo. The facial image is similar to fingerprints: no two images are alike.

When computers recognize faces

Facial recognition software, which uses biometrics, is well advanced. It is possible to identify suspects within large crowds, with surveillance cameras. Also internet services and private computer owners are increasingly making use of facial recognition software to sort holiday pictures and tagging them to names.

The inventor of the genetic fingerprint

Alec Jeffreys discovered DNA-fingerprinting almost accidentally in 1984 during research at the University of Leicester. He identified a specific pattern on DNA segments, which were different for every human. He created a picture, which looks like a barcode at the supermarket.

A barcode for every human

Germany's Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA) started storing such barcodes in a federal database in 1998. Investigators have since solved more than 18,000 crimes, using genetic fingerprints.

Clearing the innocent

It's not just criminals who get identified. Many innocent people can be cleared of criminal charges through good identification. For some, technology has saved their lives. Kirk Bloodsworth spent almost nine years on death row. The US Innocence Project has proved the false incarceration of more than 100 people using DNA evidence.

Clarity for victims' families

The first big test for DNA-fingerprinting came with the mass murder of Srebrenica. Bodies, exhumed from mass graves, were systematically identified using DNA techniques. They were then reburied by their loved ones. Here, five year old Ema Hasanovic pays last respects to her uncle. More than 6,000 victims of the massacre - mostly men - were identified using DNA-fingerprinting.

Biometric data on your phone and computer

You may be surprised, but there's biometric information in sounds and other digital data. Voice recognition software can, for instance, identify people making threatening phone calls - the human voice is also unique. And don't forget: we leave all kinds of digital traces on the internet, which hold clues to who we really are.

'Tighten the screws'

"We have to tighten the screws until there's no wiggle room left for terrorists or criminals and no means for them to launch attacks," Avramopoulos told Welt.

Read more: Theresa May calls for UK-EU security agreement

As part of other measures to be adopted, "it means that they are being denied access to money, fake documents, weapons and explosives while, at the same time, preventing them from crossing our borders undetected," he added.

The German government approves of the plan as ID cards are used as travel documents within the EU and the "compulsory introduction of fingerprints in identity cards could provide an extra layer of security," the Interior Ministry told the news agency dpa.

At present, fingerprinting in ID cards is optional in the bloc. Some countries, like the UK, do not have ID cards at all.