Germany adds digital fingerprints to passports

Germany will store digital fingerprints in addition to digital photos in passports as one of several biometric security measures planned to fight organized crime and international terrorism.

All new passports issued from November will store two digital fingerprints in an embedded chip, which, since 2005, includes a digital photo, the German Federal Ministry of the Interior said Friday.

While fingerprints will be stored exclusively in passport chips, photos will continue to be saved additionally in databases of local authorities. A new amendment gives police and other authorized government officials online access to these databases.

Unlike several other countries in Europe and abroad, Germany has no central database for photos or fingerprints of all citizens or for registered foreigners living in the country, and currently lacks plans to establish one, according to a ministry spokeswoman.

Centralized data, including photos and fingerprints, exists only for people registered with the police for criminal activity, and for applicants for German visas.

Only readers equipped with a new cryptographic protocol can read the passports including both photos and fingerprints.

The Extended Access Control system connects the chip and the reader by establishing a secure communications channel over a distance of 10 centimeters to 20 centimeters.

Moves by the German government to digitize increased levels of personal data and link databases among authorities have led to an outcry by some groups, including federal and state data privacy commissioners. At a meeting in D