ENDitorial: French biometric passport: case still pending after 2 years
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Deutsch: ENDitorial: Beschwerde gegen französische Biometrie-Pässe nach 2 Jah...
It took more than two years after the complaint against the French biometric passport was filed to have the conclusions of the "public rapporteur" publicly presented at the Conseil d'Etat (French highest administrative Court), on 30 June 2010. While the final court decision was expected some weeks later as it usually occurs, the plaintiffs received instead an official note that the conclusions presented on 30 June were dismissed, and that some more analysis was needed: the case will now be heard on October 2010.
The French biometric passport entered into force after a decree was published on 4 May 2008. On 4 July 2008, a case was jointly filed before the Conseil d'Etat by two NGOs: French EDRI member IRIS and the French Human Rights League, to obtain the annulment of this decree. Other complaints were filed by a group of 10 citizens from Toulouse, and by photographers associations and companies, the latter complaint highlighting economic issues with the decree.
The main provisions targeted by the two NGOs are: the establishment of a centralized national biometric database; the collection and storage in the database of 8 fingerprints (only 2 of them being also stored in the passport chip), instead of the 2 required by the European regulation on biometric passports; the collection of fingerprints of children starting from age 6. Legal substantive and procedural arguments against these provisions are provided in the complaint.
In the French Conseil d'Etat judicial system, the "public rapporteur" is a member of the Council in charge of presenting to the court the claim put forward in the complaint, of analyzing the circumstances and the applicable law, and of proposing independent and impartial conclusions and recommendations regarding the final decision. Usually, the court follows these conclusions, or simply makes slight modifications before delivering its judgement.
Two years after the complaint was filed, the "public rapporteur" recommended the annulment of the provision requiring to collect and store in the centralized database the 6 additional fingerprints, on the basis that this was disproportionate with respect to the European regulation. While he didn't recommend the annulment of the provision creating a centralized database, the "public rapporteur" pointed out that this was not required by the European regulation, and that French and European data protection institutions, as well as the European Parliament, voiced strong concerns against this provision. However, the "public rapporteur" considered, following the opinions of the French Ministry of Interior, that this centralized database is necessary to avoid identity fraud and passport trafficking, including in the case of children starting from age of 6.
Apparently, these timid conclusions were still too provocative for the Conseil d'Etat or were they, on the contrary, indeed too timid in the Court's view as well? No one knows yet why the Conseil d'Etat considered that they needed to be dismissed, and that four additional months of investigations and discussions were still needed to reach a decision. In the mean time, the deployment of the French biometric passport has been going on since the publication of the decree, given that such complaints do not have any suspensive effect.
EDRi-gram: Complaint Against The French Govt To Annul The Biometric Passport
Decree. The French Government goes against CNIL in biometric passports
French biometric passport dossier (all available documents, only in French)
(Contribution by Meryem Marzouki - EDRi-member IRIS - France)