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    • Biometric technologies – between securing and endangering individual rights

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    • Date: 03 March 2008
      (from left) Ejdus, Milenkovic, Jankovic and Sabic during the 2nd session
      (from left) Ejdus, Milenkovic, Jankovic and Sabic during the 2nd session

      Representatives of Serbia’s state institutions - ombudsman Saša Janković, Commissioner for Information of Public Importance Rodoljub Šabić, Ministry of Internal Affairs Bojana Panić, experts in the matter of biometric technologies - Ninoslav Janjić (WLS Electronic), Ratimir Drakulić of the Faculty of organisational sciences, Oliver Subotić of Serbian Orthodox Church - as well as civil society organisations’ (CSO) representatives, Dejan Milenković of YUCOM and Aleksandar Pavić of "Za život bez žiga" („For a life without a tag“) CSO have taken part in the second public hearing/debate organised within the project "Increasing Citizens’ participation in Security politics", "Security, Biometry and Human Rights". This Centre’s project is made possible by the support of the American people through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

      Making the opening remarks, CCMR Executive Director Filip Ejdus explained that the issue of biometric technologies has not been discussed in the public so far in Serbia: debate has been oversimplified to the matter of producing new passports and ID’s.

      A common standpoint for two of the initial speakers was that introduction of biometric technology can bring more good than harm coming as the result of misuse. Bojana Panić from Ministry of Internal Affairs stressed that no one’s DNA sample cannot be taken without a prior warrant issued by the court authorities, and that the value and objectivity of using biometric evidence cannot be underestimated since these findings are original and cannot be altered. However, the question of the proper period for holding data of this source remains a source of dispute.

      Approving the usage of biometric technologies, Ninoslav Janjić added that conventional codes are not safe enough. Why should anyone use them, believes Janjić, if data of organic nature can be used as well (fingertips, hand biometry, retina scan, voice).

      Ratimir Drakulić offered a definition of the right to privacy. As he believes, this right understoods the individual as being entitled to control which data, in what manner and to whom can be made available. Meaning that "right of privacy over information" encompasses five different rights: to be informed, for data to be used in the proper manner, right to access and inspect, right to correct entered information and right to use legal remedy.

      Ombudsman Saša Janković stressed how important is the principle that "limitations to individual’s rights can be done only with their consent". Dejan Milenković followed with a description of the lack of legal framework. If one right to privacy over personal information is protected by the Constitution of Serbia, the key issue is that the law which would follow on and bring more clarity to this matter has not been passed. Therefore, one cannot argue in favour of introducing biometric technology.

      Commisioner Rodoljub Šabić emphasised how any society organised must be aware of the possibility for misuse of informational technologies. A society that wishes to be seen as democratic, as he explained, can’t allow itself to forget the value of freedom as the principal value. As long as the possibility of misuse exists, this value is brought into danger. Since there is no legal framework, Šabić is against using biometrics in production of new ID’s.

      Oliver Subotić and Aleksandar Pavić’s thoughts served as the closing remarks of the debate. Subotić feels that the most dangerous implication of using biometrics will be a distrust opening between the citizens and the state: so far, data (of this kind) has been collected from criminals only, but from now on it will be taken from other citizens as well. Yet future implications can prove to be even more dangerous, and this makes necessary a further search for an ideal model of biometrics. „It is state’s imperative to consider all the possible aspects regarding biometry, because if not, a totalitarian society can be the aftermath“, concluded Subotić.

      Finally, the key issue for Aleksandar Pavić remains the one, who will be the „owner“ of the data collected using biometrics.

      By comparing the current trend of decentralisation of the usage of special measures with the creation of more "little brothers" instead of one "Big Brother", Filip Ejdus thanked the participants on the behalf of the Centre for Civil-Military Relations, and invited them to stay informed of the activities within the project „Increasing Citizens’ participation in the Security politics“. Filip also suggested a possibility for publishing a collection of essays dedicated to the matter of biometrics.

      Report prepared by Marko Savkovic

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