Greece: the personal data protection authority banned biometrics at airports

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The Greek authority for personal data protection has banned the new Athens airport to make use of a biometric identification system for passenger check. To verify the fingerprints and the iris of the eye of the passengers when checking tickets and boarding, this system yet had that test value, and was based on volunteerism. The decision of the Greek CNIL could jeopardize the European project of biometric passports.

On October 8, the international airport Eleftherios Venizelos sought leave to the Greek authority for the protection of personal data (PAD) to embark a passenger biometric data processing.

Too program "pilot"?

In partnership with the Milan International Airport, the Italian airline Alitalia, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) and two electronics companies (unidentified), the system was presented as a "pilot program" funded by the Commission European and Swiss government.

The system, based on voluntary passengers, was to verify their iris and fingerprints at the ticket control procedures and boarding.

On October 16, after hearing the parties, DPA contradicted the press reports announcing that the program had been endorsed: the contrary, the authority banned the deployment of the program, as it contravenes the law on the protection of Privacy, adopted in Greece in 1997.

Training for the Olympics?

The information appears to have been officially announced to the press that on 10 November. Interviewed by Reuters, an airport spokesman confirmed that, if the equipment has been purchased, it has not been installed yet, and should be used only as an experiment. In passing, he said that the system was not set up in anticipation of the next Olympic Games to be held in Greece in August 2004.

The Olympic Games are the subject of the keenest attention and would have a $ 755 million security budget and the assistance of certain countries "experts" in this area, including the United States and Israel.

In its bulletin of 11 November , the Greek Embassy in France for its part says that the decision of the Greek authority "and makes it unlikely the European project of biometric passports' promoted by the European Union in close collaboration with United States ".

Last June, the European Council of Ministers, under pressure from the US, has decided that European passports will eventually be equipped with a chip containing fingerprints and the iris of their owners.

The newsletter of the agency of the European Commission dealing with the interconnection of Data between Administrations (IDA) specifies for its part that a new law could be passed, in Greece, in order to authorize such programs biometric verification of identity.

More and more seduced airports

Recalling that biometrics had some success since the attacks of September 2001, the IDA argued that several European airports are set to acquire them, including Germany and Sweden.

Scandinavian Airlines (SAS) account and launch this month a fingerprint verification system and iris of its passengers at the airport in Umea, north of Stockholm.

At Frankfurt Airport, is one of the iris recognition system to be tested in December 2003 with passengers already have a passport with a biometric identifier.

Roissy Airport has also announced (, 12/11/2003 ) recently that he would be tested in the summer of 2004 and on a voluntary basis, the identity check of its most frequent travelers by fingerprints.

When asked by the Associated Press, an official of the airport Eleftherios Venizelos advance an experimental biometric control program will be launched soon anyway, but to the few airport employees.

From early 2004, Aéroports de Paris announced that a similar system would be set up for access to its 90,000 employees to restricted areas of Roissy Charles de Gaulle airport.