France is calling on the European Union to adopt widespread biometric identification throughout the borders of its Schengen area. Comprised of most EU members, Schengen allows for relatively unrestricted travel between its internal borders; France wants the perimeter secured.
France’s proposal is basically an extension of the EU’s Smart Borders program, which is meant to impose biometric screening in a two-tiered system but is currently undergoing a public consultation. Its biometric screening doesn’t currently apply to EU nationals, and France is aiming to amend that so that all travellers are scanned at Schengen borders.
France positioned the proposal as a matter of national security, citing terrorism concerns, but it likely is also meant to mitigate the region’s ongoing refugee crisis. It also happens to track well with security controls already coming into play in the region; a rudimentary fingerprinting system is already being used in so-called migrant ‘hot spots’, and the EU has also been exploring the introduction of biometric screening in airport applications.
Still, as Ars Technica points out, legal matters could derail France’s proposal due to privacy concerns, which have previously led the Court of Justice of the European Union to block the EU’s Data Retention Directive. Time will tell, of course, and the ongoing refugee crisis could help to dramatically shift EU leaders’ thinking on biometric screening.
October 13, 2015 – by Alex Perala