ACLU Asks International Group Not To Endorse Global Travel Surveillance System

March 30, 2004 12:00 am

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NEW YORK-The American Civil Liberties Union today asked the International Civil Aviation Organization not to adopt a standard for travel documents that would include biometrics and other provisions that it said would inevitably be used to create a system of global tracking and surveillance of travelers.

“The ICAO should not adopt a set of standards that will needlessly impinge on privacy and other human rights,” said Barry Steinhardt, Director of the ACLU’s Technology and Liberty Program. “There is no reason to rush into implementing such standards, especially before the possibility has been explored that minimally intrusive alternatives may be just as effective in providing security and reducing fraud.”

The ACLU sent the open letter to the ICAO along with the London-based advocacy group Privacy International. It was co-signed by 32 other human rights and civil liberties organizations from around the globe.

“The right to movement is recognized as a fundamental right around the world, and any steps that could restrict that right must be taken with the utmost care and deliberation,” Steinhardt added. “We have not seen that kind of public discussion about these measures.”

The ACLU also suggested that some of these measures might be part of an effort by member nations to enact a surveillance regime by working through international bodies that would never win political approval if it were to be directly proposed.

“We call that ‘policy laundering,'” Steinhardt said. “The U.S. government knows that the American people will never go for a national I.D. card or a national database of every American’s fingerprints and photographs, but this proposal, if approved, will allow the United States to claim that large steps toward those policies are ‘necessary to comply with international standards.'”

The letter is online at /node/22504

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