German passports now have to have fingerprint data included in a scannable embedded chip. They are among the first EU passports to require this. Added to biometric data – a pan-European measure – this lets border guards see that a passport and carrier belong together. It is part of a plan in response to growing terrorism concerns.
Joachim Kueter at the federal passport printing office compares the new method with the past, saying: “The officer used to have to check with the picture on the passport if the passport holder was really the correct person. With the (two) fingerprints now, there is no room left for doubt that the passport really belongs to the bearer.”
Privacy defenders worry that the data is not safe. Bettina Sokol, with the North Rhine-Westphalia data protection agency said: “I am afraid there is a potential danger that the data could be misused in certain countries that are not as democratic as ours. We don’t know what happens to the data that have been looked at there, will they be saved for instance or misused in other ways?”
Other experts warn about identity theft, saying the new passport raises the possibility that this will increase in Germany. They have voiced concern, saying that in facial recognition tests, biometric scanners have a high error rate, and that fingerprint scanners can be outsmarted by clever fakes.