France to Create ID Database Holding Biometric Data of 60 Million Citizens

By Glyn Moody and cross-posted from arstechnica.co.uk 

France plans to create a single, unified database holding the biometric data from the passports and identity cards of 60 million citizens.

The measure wasn’t debated in the French National Assembly as it was brought in on a national holiday by government decree.

It is not the first time France has sought to set up such a huge, centralised biometric database.

In 2012, Nicholas Sarkozy’s right-wing government tried to do the same. However, key sections of that law were thrown out by France’s constitutional council on the grounds that the scope of the database was too broad, and that the police would be allowed to use it to identify individuals from biometric data.

The French government apparently believes that the new decree will not suffer the same fate. It insists that the new database will only be used to authenticate individuals, not to identify them. That is, it will be used to check that they are who they claim to be, not to discover whose biometrics have been found at the scene of a crime, for example.

However, there is a big loophole in the legal framework. France’s intelligence services and police will be able to use the database to identify suspects provided “violations of the fundamental interests of the Nation and acts of terrorism” are involved

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