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Using technology to draw borders: fundamental rights for the Smart Borders initiative

Maegan Hendow (Research Department, International Centre for Migration Policy Development, Vienna, Austria)
Alina Cibea (Research Department, International Centre for Migration Policy Development, Vienna, Austria)
Albert Kraler (Research Department, International Centre for Migration Policy Development, Vienna, Austria)

Journal of Information, Communication and Ethics in Society

ISSN: 1477-996X

Article publication date: 9 March 2015

Abstract

Purpose

This paper aims to examine the primary fundamental rights concerns related to biometrics and their use in automated border controls (ABCs), as well as how these issues converge in the European Commission’s Smart Borders proposal.

Design/methodology/approach

This paper draws on extensive background research and qualitative in-depth interviews conducted in 2013 for the European Union (EU) FP-7 project “FastPass – A harmonized, modular reference system for all European automatic border crossing points”.

Findings

The Smart Borders proposal not only compounds the individual concerns related to the use of biometrics in border controls and automatisation thereof, but also has serious issues of its own, premier among which is the imposition of a two-tier border control system.

Social implications

The paper is a catalyst for open debate on the fundamental questions of how we got to this point and where do we want to go. It questions the process by which the increased use of IT in border controls has become the norm and policy trend in Europe, and discusses where the limits could be drawn from a fundamental rights perspective. In particular, it warns against the institutionalisation of a two-tier border control system among third-country nationals.

Originality/value

Little attention is given to the fundamental rights concerns raised for EU and non-EU citizens as related to biometrics and their use in ABCs, and how these issues are reproduced in the Smart Borders proposal. The paper fills this gap by taking a bottom-up approach: examining the implications of individual elements of the proposal to see their impact on the broader policy.

Keywords

Acknowledgements

The authors would like to acknowledge and thank the interview partners who took the time to speak with us, their input was invaluable. The research was conducted within the framework of a larger EU-funded project, “FastPass – A harmonized, modular reference system for all European automatic border crossing points”, and the authors would like to thank the other partners of the project for their support.

Citation

Hendow, M., Cibea, A. and Kraler, A. (2015), "Using technology to draw borders: fundamental rights for the Smart Borders initiative", Journal of Information, Communication and Ethics in Society, Vol. 13 No. 1, pp. 39-57. https://doi.org/10.1108/JICES-02-2014-0008

Publisher

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Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2015, Emerald Group Publishing Limited