On the 21 March 2013 the LIBE Committee organised a hearing on Schengen Governance and Border Management with the aim of presenting the state of play and latest developments, with a particular eye to the switch-on of the revised Schengen Information System (SIS II) scheduled for the 9 April 2013.
The pursuit of freedom of movement and of the abolition of border checks in the Schengen Area is strictly related to the objective of making travel documents more secure. The latter can be obtained by delivering ePassports with biometric data, such as fingerprints and face images, but also by assuring that every step of the issuing procedure provides a sufficient degree of security.
Age limits for children’s fingerprints
In order to contribute to the debate on a reasonable minimum age for the acquisition of children’s fingerprints, the Joint Research Centre is currently conducting a study aimed at evaluating the feasibility of using fingerprints of under 12s. To this end, the Portuguese government provided anonymous fingerprints of 1 600 children whose fingerprints had been scanned twice within two and four and a half years.
Researchers focused on the question of whether or not older fingerprints can still be recognised after a certain period. Preliminary results showed that children’s growth does not represent a problem, since fingerprints maintain proportions and the same recognition rate regardless of the time that has passed.
Their second aim was to verify whether the image resolution was sufficient for a future comparison of fingerprints. Researchers found that image size was not an issue either. However, the acquisition procedure is critical if fingerprints are to be recognised as long as four and a half years later.
Taking into account these conclusions, the study affirms that a minimum age of 12 is not required.
Breeder documents and the FIDELITY project
The European Commission is financing the FIDELITY initiative, whose aim is to analyse the ePassport life cycle, identify vulnerabilities and develop solutions and recommendations in order to overcome them.
There are a number of security issues particularly with regard to breeder documents (like birth certificates). In fact, no standard format, content and security features (e.g. special paper and ink) have been established. As a consequence, this type of document can easily be counterfeited and can weaken the “security chain” leading up to the delivery of a passport.
The debate raised some questions about the need for harmonising breeder documents or issuing processes at EU level, and whether databases enabling the sharing of breeder documents issued by Member States should be established.