Passport control

Including fingerprints in passports is lawful

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

People currently applying for a passport will be requested to leave fingerprints. A decision by the European Court of Justice recently determined that although the taking and storing of fingerprints in passports constitutes an infringement of the rights to respect for private life and the protection of personal data, such measures are nonetheless justified for the purpose of preventing any fraudulent use of passports. 

This verdict was made in the case of Michael Schwarz vs. the City of Bochum. When Mr Schwarz wanted to obtain a passport in the city of Bochum, he was asked to have his fingerprints taken. After the city rejected his application, Mr Schwarz brought an action before the Administrative Court in Germany, requesting that the city be ordered to issue him with a passport without taking his fingerprints. The Administrative Court had to determine whether the fingerprints would violate fundamental rights. The Court has now confirmed that this action is not in conflict with European law.


With this measure, the illegal entry of persons into the European Union is attempted to be prevented. The forgery of passports will be more difficult and illegal incoming travellers can be exposed more quickly. Airports, security agencies and airlines have a right to control biometric data of passengers in order to prevent crimes.

The Regulation expressly provides that the fingerprints may be used only for the purpose of verifying the authenticity of the passport and the identity of the owner. Any other use is not approved by the Court and violates European law.

Written by: Team