Final Word from Monday, June 23, 2003

Imagine a totalitarian regime, like the one in Nazi Germany, the Soviet Union or Czechoslovakia, that has biometric data on all its citizens. Imagine how much more "effective" Adolf Hitler, Joseph Stalin or Klement Gottwald would have been if they had had data cards with embedded fingerprints, retina scans, voice samples or racial-profiling information. New EU passports will likely carry some of these features. Machine-readable biometric passports will be required by the U.S. as of Oct. 2004, under threat of the imposition of visas. Privacy advocates in some countries are concerned about the implications for civil liberties. Honest citizens have little reason to fear a democratic government, but European history shows that a democratic regime can be replaced overnight by an oppressive one. The Czechs, with their history, are well placed to explain to their EU colleagues what precautions need to be taken.


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