dutch

New phase in the resistance against fingerprints: Municipality Guarantee Letter 2.0

Tuesday, 02 August 2011

Last year the compulsory storage of fingerprints under the new Dutch Passport Act lead to turmoil on a national scale. This turmoil has been caused in particular by the enormous risks that accompany the storage. In order to contain the risks for citizens, the Privacy First Foundation brought into circulation a so-called Municipality Guarantee Letter (in Dutch: GemeenteGarantieBrief): by using this model letter citizens were able to obtain the guarantee from their municipality that their fingerprints would be dealt with carefully and that potential damage would be at the expense of the State. The Municipality Guarantee Letter turned out to be a great success. During a Dutch parliamentary debate the State Secretary for the Interior Ms. Ank Bijleveld described the letter as follows:

‘‘It’s a campaign by the Privacy First Foundation. This foundation submits a declaration about the storage of fingerprints to municipalities and asks council officials to sign it. They also have to indicate how they deal with the fingerprints and have to declare that they comply with certain guarantees.’’

The cause for this debate in the House of Representatives was the fact that the State Secretary had advised municipalities not to accept the letter, let alone sign it. Much to the annoyance of Dutch political parties as well as the National Ombudsman Alex Brenninkmeijer. Such letters should always be accepted by the government, according to the National Ombudsman. ‘‘There is a right to petition’’, Dutch newspaper Telegraaf quoted him as saying.

Recently the Dutch Interior Minister Piet Hein Donner announced that the storage of fingerprints by municipalities would be brought to an end at the end of July at the latest (after a modification to the municipal software). Moreover, plans for storage in a national database have been shelved because of privacy objections and the enormous percentage of errors in biometric technology. Yesterday (1 August) the Ministry of the Interior declared by telephone to Privacy First that the storage of fingerprints has now indeed been put to an end by all municipalities in the Netherlands, that is to say, it has been reduced to the duration in between the application and the provision of the passport or ID-card. With this the goal of the Municipality Guarantee Letter has for the most part been achieved.

Now another objective comes in sight: voluntary instead of compulsory storage of fingerprints in the document. To this end Privacy First has updated the Municipality Guarantee Letter to a new version: the Municipality Guarantee Letter 2.0. With this letter citizens can lodge an official protest to their municipality against the compulsory taking of fingerprints for a new passport or ID-card. Privacy First has already filled in a few possible objections in the model letter. Citizens can change or complete the letter to their own wishes. As of today, the letter is available for everyone on the website of Privacy First.

Privacy First expects that numerous citizens will make use of the new Municipality Guarantee Letter. This means the social resistance against the compulsory taking of fingerprints enters a new phase.

Download the Municipality Guarantee Letter 2.0 by Privacy First HERE.

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