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CJEU Justifies Storage of Fingerprints within ID Cards

Client Updates / Apr 01, 2024

Written by: Haim Ravia and Dotan Hammer

The Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) has held that the European Union’s regulation of identity cards, which requires that the cards store the cardholder’s two fingerprints, is constitutional under fundamental rights to respect for private life and to protection of personal data.

The decision was delivered on a case involving a German citizen who petitioned the courts against his municipality’s refusal to issue him an identity card without the fingerprints stored in it.

The CJEU acknowledged that the regulation requiring the storage of fingerprints within the card limits the fundamental rights to respect for private life and to the protection of personal data, which are guaranteed by the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union. However, the CJEU then found that the purposes underlying the storage of fingerprints are justifiable and legitimate: combatting the production of false identity cards and identity theft and ensuring the interoperability of verification systems.

The CJEU also found that using a reliable identification system furthers the citizens’ right to free movement and residence in the EU. An alternative, and potentially less privacy-invasive solution, of storing a biometric facial image of the cardholder, was held to be an insufficient means for these purposes, given that a person’s face is prone to changes over time in ways that fingerprints are not.

However, the CJEU found deficiencies in the enactment procedures of the regulation. For these reasons, the CJEU invalidated the regulation but suspended the invalidation until December 2026 to allow the EU institutions to properly re-enact the regulation.

Click here to read the CJEU’s decision in the matter of the City of Wiesbaden.