Privacy Advisor

Global Privacy Dispatches- Netherlands- Fingerprints

April 1, 2008

By Richard van Staden ten Brink

Dutch government intends to store fingerprints of all Dutch citizens


In December, the European Commission issued a regulation mandating that, by June 28, 2009, all European Union passports (except passports issued in the UK and Ireland) should include a chip storing the photo and two fingerprints of the passport owner.

On January 21, 2008, the Dutch State Secretary of the Interior introduced a bill in Parliament that not only implements this requirement, but also provides for the creation of a national database in which the photos and fingerprints of all Dutch citizens are to be stored. If the bill is adopted, the Netherlands will be the first country in the European Union to create a national fingerprinting database.

According to the bill's explanatory memorandum, the introduction of the database is necessary to prevent fraud with and abuse of passports, to identify victims of accidents and disasters, to safeguard national security, and to investigate and prosecute crimes. Public prosecutors will be able to access the fingerprints in the database for criminal investigation purposes.

Last year, the Dutch Data Protection Authority (DDPA) published an opinion on a draft version of the bill. In its opinion, the DDPA strongly criticized the bill and advised the government to reconsider its introduction. The DDPA feels that the bill violates article 8 of the European Convention of Human Rights, and that the fingerprinting database will become subject to "function creep"—use of the database for purposes for which it was not designed—and that the fingerprinting database will pose a considerable security risk. In response to the introduction of the bill in Parliament, the DDPA has reposted its opinion of last year on its Web site.

Richard van Staden ten Brink is advocaat at De Brauw Blackstone Westbroek in Amsterdam. He may be reached at richard.vanstadentenbrink@debrauw.com.