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The database of honest people

| | 2011.07.11. 09:15:38  Földes Ádám Máté  


The French National Assembly has just voted for a proposition which can have a huge impact on the personal rights of French citizens. The bill, which mandates the inclusion of a chip for storing – among other things – the photo and the fingerprint of the possessor, in identity cards, was passed with 7 yeses to 4 noes. The newly born law also states that an optional secondary chip could also be included in the identity card for the purpose of facilitating business transactions. But the biggest impact on the life of French citizens is the creation of a centralised database – referred to as the ‘database of honest people’ by the proposing delegate – that will contain the name, gender, date and place of birth, address, size and colour of the eyes, fingerprint and photograph of 45 million people.

The aim of the bill is to fight identity theft. According to rapporteur François Pillet, this would be the first ’database of honest people’. He also added that the sole purpose of the database is to fight identity theft, as all other uses would pose risks for the personal liberties. In the Senate, he said that the database should be constructed in a way that it would be ‘technically impossible’ to identify somebody from his/her fingerprints or photo. However, the government does not share his views; they argue that ‘it would be a shame not to benefit from the possibility of the police to request – after a court warrant – data from the database’... According to Delphine Batho, socialist delegate specialised in police databases, ‘[the currently existing databases] seem to be sufficient. The proposers of the bill argue, to sum it up, that the detection of a fraudster requires a database on everybody.’

The bill, scary as it is, is also a step against the direction that some other European countries have taken. For example, in Great Britain, the database that backed up the identity card system was destroyed in an almost theatrical spectacle of throwing the hard drives and tapes of on which it was held into a shredder. The Netherlands has also chosen to delete its database of fingerprints of 6 million biometrical passport holders, and to do away with their storage henceforth.

There might be a loophole in France, too. The identity card is not a compulsory document; the identity of a person may also be established by another document (e.g. passport, driving licence, social security card), or even by a testimony. Nonetheless, the ‘spirit’ of the bill is still horrifying, to say the least...

Tags: identity card, identity theft


Source: Un fichier de 45M de « gens honnêtes »





avatar Székely Iván 2011.07.18. 09:15:43
It is worth remembering the public and professional protests against the French centralized databases SAFARI (which was later simply renamed "national physical person identification catalogue") and GAMIN (the register of "risk-prone" children). - More on this story and the history of data protection in France, see: André Vitalis, "France", in Global Privacy Protection. The First Generation, edited by James B. Rule and Graham Greenleaf (Edward Elgar Publishing, 2010).

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