EU watchdog comes out against 'smart borders' proposal

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EU watchdog comes out against 'smart borders' proposal

Suggests Aussie borders alternative.

The European Data Protection Supervisor (EDPS) has slammed a proposal to introduce an automated biometrics-based entry and exit system for travellers in the region, calling it "costly, unproven and intrusive".

In February this year, the European Commission (EC) put forward a proposal to register the entry and exit of "third country nationals" who cross the borders of the union, as well as a registered traveller programme. 

The proposal follows work started in 2008, when the EC suggesting automated, electronic tools to record and track visa-exampted third country nationals, using "smart borders" to replace manual stamping of passports by border guards.

Such a system would require ten fingerprints to verify individuals at borders and to calculate the duration of their stay in the EU, but the EDPS questioned the necessity of collecting and storing excessive amounts of personal information - especially since merely two or four fingerprintes are enough to identify people.

EDPS is also concerned that law enforcement and similar authorities would be given access to the database created for the entry-exit system, even if the indivuals registered in it were not suspected to be criminals.

As the system would require EU authorities to exchange detailed personal information with countries outside the union that do not have the same level of data protection, the EDPS says data sharing would have to be kept to a minimum.

Travellers would also have little or no remedy if there were technical problems, the EDPS noted.

Instead of the intrusive biometric system, the EDPS suggested looking at Australia's Movements Records database which it said "could represent an alternative on how a similar system could work based only on  alpha-numeric data".

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