Eticas’ work on migration, biometrics and Smart Borders published by the EU Agency for Fundamental Rights

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The EU Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA) has published the report “Fundamental rights and the interoperability of EU information systems: borders and security”. The report is the first publication of the project Biometric data in large EU IT systems in the areas of borders, visa and asylum – fundamental rights implications led by Eticas Research & Consulting in collaboration with the Spanish National Research Council (CSIC). This is the first time an assessment of impact of Smart Borders on migration is conducted, and Eticas is proud to have been trusted by FRA to lead one of its largest projects ever.


Eticas worked for 18 months conducting extended fieldwork research which included in-depth interviews carried out with public officials, asylum seekers and migrants, as well as experts (total 286 interviews), in addition to three small-scale surveys carried out with border guards (160 respondents) and staff processing visa applications at embassies and external service providers (132 respondents) and with visa applicants (584 respondents). Moreover, a survey among border guards was conducted at border crossing points in six EU Member States, including Zeebrugge port in Belgium, the airports Frankfurt in Germany, Barajas in Spain, Fiumicino in Italy and Arlanda in Sweden, as well as the border crossing point Terespol in Poland. The surveys among staff working at consulates and visa applicants were conducted in four countries including Algeria, Nigeria, Thailand and Ukraine.

The report on interoperability shows the fundamental rights implications of managing biometric data in large EU IT-Systems in areas of borders, visa and asylum. Interoperability should not lead to the processing of more data—biometric or alphanumeric— than necessary for the existing purposes under the individual legal instruments and needs to respect the sensitivity of biometric data, which require additional safeguards to be considered when such data are processed. Technical solutions chosen must limit access only for authorised purposes and to authorised staff and must provide for automated deletion of data to comply with legally set retention times.
Interoperability involves both risks and opportunities for fundamental rights. Receiving the full picture about a person contributes to better decision-making but, according to some experts, curtailing privacy by processing large amounts of personal data, including biometric data, may affect democracy and society since privacy is a value inherent to a liberal democratic and pluralist society, and a cornerstone for the enjoyment of human and civil rights. The complete project report will be available soon.

You can read it here:

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