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LEAKS: EU Parliament mulls using MEPs’ fingerprints to register attendance

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The European Parliament is moving forward plans to replace the system of manual signature by MEPs with a system of biometric fingerprints as proof of presence at parliamentary meetings, according to a Parliament document seen by Euractiv.

The current system requires MEPs to sign a manual attendance register at European Parliament committee, plenary or group meetings in order to receive the Parliament’s daily allowance of EUR338. The tax-free allowance is paid to MEPs on top of their EUR120,000 annual salary to cover accommodation and related costs.

However, the Parliament document, which was circulated following a meeting of the Parliament’s Bureau on Monday (2 October), suggests that this system will soon be replaced.

In June 2019, senior MEPs on the Parliament’s Bureau authorised the Secretary-General to launch the procedures for the purchasing and implementation of a system to scan fingerprints.

The Bureau is composed of Parliament President Roberta Metsola, 14 Vice-Presidents and five Quaestors, and is responsible for the administrative work of the assembly.

The European Data Protection Supervisor (EDPS), which is responsible for ensuring that European institutions respect the right to privacy and data protection when they process personal data, has made a series of recommendations to ensure that the Parliament’s new biometric data system conforms with the data protection laws drafted and agreed by MEPs.

According to the document seen by Euractiv, the Parliament believes that it is feasible to implement all the recommendations except one, regarding the ‘one-to-many’ system of data storage.

Specifically, EDPS recommended that the Parliament use a ‘one-to-many’ system that allows biometric templates to be changed and cancelled in order to reduce the risks of unauthorised access to biometric data. The EDPS also pointed to the value of using a ‘one-to-one system’ in which no biometric data would be stored on the local database of fingerprint readers.

The Parliament consulted its service provider on this point but the company indicated that the use of renewable and cancellable templates would affect the biometric performance and was not supported by their system, Euractiv understands.

The Parliament document indicates that, at present, there is no agreement among the Parliament’s leadership or within the assembly’s political groups on whether to introduce biometric technology. Broadly, Bureau members from the centre-right EPP and conservative ECR groups favour the idea of a pilot scheme using biometric technology that would initially be voluntary, while the Socialists, Greens, liberal Renew and Left groups favour other alternative methods, Euractiv has learned.

According to the proposal, MEPs would scan their fingerprint onto the fingerprint reader, which would record their presence in the system by means of a timestamp.

[Edited by Nathalie Weatherald]

Read more with EURACTIV



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