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French plan for biometric database of 60 million people sparks outcry

Peter Sayer | Nov. 9, 2016
A government minister and the National Digital Council are among the opponents of the database

But now the idea has come around again -- just as Paris is about to host a summit of the Open Government Partnership.

Most worrying for the National Digital Council is the government's selection of a centralized architecture to store everyone's biometric details.

One of its concerns is that this will present a rich target for cybercriminals and hostile state actors.

The U.S. has already seen the danger such systems present. In 2015 the U.S. Office of Personnel Management said hackers had accessed the details of 4.2 million government employees in its databases, and those of 21.5 million people who, as current, former or prospective government employees, had been subject to background investigations.

But the Council is also concerned about freedom.

"History has shown that the creation of such databases leads to function creep, whether the databases are operated legally or illegally, as until recently were those of the security services. To think that our country will be an exception is to ignore the lessons of history," it said. "The rise of populism, in Europe and in the U.S., makes such bets on the future unreasonable."

It called on the government to suspend the creation of the database until all the security implications have been studied.


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