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EU plans biometric visa divide


The European Union plans to include facial and fingerprint biometric data on travel documents for non-EU foreign nationals by 2005.

Two proposals have been adopted by the European Commission requiring member states to integrate the biometric identifiers into visa and residence permits for third-country nationals.

Implementation has been brought forward from 2007 to 2005, and the proposals will now be discussed by the European Parliament.

The Commission is focusing on the mandatory storing of the digital facial image as the primary identity check, with fingerprints providing the best solution for "background checks" in databases.

Both will be stored on a 'contactless' chip embedded in a document.

Designed to improve border security and combat terrorism, this latest move will pave the way for similar digital data to be compulsory for EU citizens' passports.

The proposals followed a meeting of the European Council in June.

Tony Bunyan, director of privacy campaigner Statewatch, said: "The EU is just as keen as the US to introduce systems of mass surveillance, which have much more to do with political and social control than fighting terrorism."

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