Identity card: ECJ allows fingerprints to be stored

data protection
ECJ allows fingerprints to be stored in ID cards

Fingerprints can be stored in the identity card – this is what the ECJ has decided

© Marijan Murat / DPA

A German man didn’t want to have his fingerprints stored on his identity card – and went to court for it. Now the European Court of Justice has made its decision.

The obligation to store fingerprints in the identity card is compatible with fundamental rights. It does restrict the rights to respect for private life and the protection of personal data, he explained European Court of Justice (ECJ) in Luxembourg on Thursday. But this is justified because counterfeiting and identity theft should be combated and EU countries can check each other’s documents. (Af. C-61/22)

The Wiesbaden Administrative Court consulted the ECJ because it had to decide on the case of a German who did not want to provide fingerprints for his new identity card. This has been mandatory in Germany since August 2021. Fingerprints are stored in the chip of ID cards. Like other EU member states, Germany implemented a European regulation.

Fingerprints in the ID card

The ECJ has now stated that the regulation can make a contribution to both protecting private life and the fight against crime and terrorism. It also makes it easier for EU citizens to travel and move within the European Union. According to the ruling, a portrait photo alone would be a less effective means of identification because faces change due to aging, illness or surgery.

The ECJ nevertheless declared the underlying EU regulation invalid because it was issued on an incorrect legal basis. A different legislative procedure should have been used, which envisaged unanimity in the Council. However, until a new regulation is issued, the effect of the previous regulation remains in force.

ECJ names consequences for EU citizens

Declaring them invalid could have serious negative consequences for EU citizens and their security, the ECJ said. He gave politicians a deadline of the end of 2026 to issue a new regulation that puts the storage of fingerprints in ID cards on the correct legal basis.


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