In February 2022, the USA issued an ultimatum on biometric data sharing as a condition to its Visa policy, launching the Enhanced Border Security Partnership. Members including the UK, Israel and the EU were targeted first to share data to maintain the USA’s vast databank – the IDENT/HART system – to fight serious crime and immigration.

A year on from the ultimatum, a Council of the EU document, obtained by Statewatch, reveals delays with the EU Commission “working on a Proof of Concept” that would assess the added value of this sharing of information”.

The USA has had a “generally” positive dialogue with member states, coordinating with the Council’s working party on information exchange and internal security (IXIM). However, secrecy over these discussions and a lack of transparency is so far not advancing the USA’s changing stake with its visa policy.

Chris Jones, Statewatch Director, comments in the report on the EU’s court ruling on repeated occasions that the USA’s IDENT/HART system compromises privacy protections for non-citizen’s data – and yet states members in the Enhanced Border Security Partnership are expected to meet the USA’s conditions by leveraging their datasets to add to the USA’s master database.

The IDENT/HART system is the world’s second largest biometric database holding over 270 million identities. It can automate checks on a high volume of transferred data within minutes.

The USA’s plan is hindered by their own data protection issues.

It will not be such a quick and efficient process to “implement the EBSP through existing agreements with members on Preventing and Combating Serious Crime [PCSC] and curbing immigration which the USA envisaged by imposing the criterion in February 2022.

Regular discussions and debriefings will be needed to establish the partnership and coordination at EU level.