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Controversial new ID cards coming in 2010

Kristen Allen · 14 Dec 2009, 15:48

Published: 14 Dec 2009 15:48 GMT+01:00

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“It’s smaller than the old one, but can do a lot more,” Interior Minister Thomas de Maizière said in a statement.

The information on the card itself will be digitally stored on the RFID chip inside the card, in addition to two fingerprint scans that German citizens can choose to opt out of. The ID will also have a digital signature that can be used to complete official business with government offices and possibly beyond – accessed only by a six digit PIN number.

“The citizens choose who they want to give what data to,” Interior Ministry official Hans Bernhard Beus said.

But data protection advocates say the RFID chip, which can be detected via radio frequencies from about two metres away without the owner’s knowledge, is problematic despite the fact it has already been incorporated into German passports.

Dr. Andreas Pfitzmann, head of the privacy and data security group at Technische Universität Dresden, told The Local on Monday that there is no reason to use RFID chips for identification cards, and that in the worst case scenario, the chips could be used to carry out such things as terrorist attacks.

“An extreme example would be that assuming German passports react differently to the radio frequency than American passports, I could use this frequency to set off a bomb where I know there are only Americans or Germans,” he said.

Pfitzmann, who specialises in privacy and identity management in Europe, spoke out against using RFID "e-passports" in parliamentary hearings during the late 1990s. He said the new ID cards raise similar concerns.

“Unfortunately the technology tempts people to give personal information that shouldn’t be made public to dubious machines,” he told The Local, adding that there was no way to indicate whether a reading machine is officially authorised. “The new identification card has inherited many of the bad traits of the passport.”

Story continues below…

But the new Perso, as it’s known colloquially in German, also has some positive new additions such as the digital signature, which could help streamline Germany’s notoriously opaque bureaucracy, he said.

“There is no easy answer. One could have done some things better, but I wouldn’t simply say that it’s only negative just because mistakes were made,” Pfitzmann said.

All old identification cards will be valid until they expire, though German residents will have the option to trade up for the new ID early if they wish.

Kristen Allen (kristen.allen@thelocal.de)

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Your comments about this article

17:51 December 14, 2009 by Celeon
What also concerns me is that this will OF COURSE also result in a raised print fee for those things.

When the expiration date comes, a new one costs a fee of 8 € at the moment.

But im sure with this fancy new chip in it, the lady at the CRO will surely smile and say "That makes 15 € please" and "oh yes, it can take between 10 to 12 weeks until its ready instead of the usual 8 weeks"
19:43 December 14, 2009 by Frenemy
@thefirelane: RFID triggered bombs??? RFID is pretty much 100% passive! (the part u carry around anyway). You have any idea what cell phone signals are like in comparison to an RF *reader*??

and before someone turns this into a privacy thing, technology exists to pull the data off the magnetic strips on your credit cards from 15ft+....

[personally I'd like a credit card-sized ID that actually fits in my wallet.....]
22:45 December 14, 2009 by Edmond Schindler
If it can be read from a distance of two meters it is feasable to read the ID of a person from a much greater distance. Imagine a crowd of protesters in a march...everyone in that crowd carrying their ID will be known by authorities. Driving through a tunnel could subject you to a where a'bouts point of reference.

Sounds like science fiction, but tracking ones movements and identifying from a distance has many unpleasant possibilities...no more anonymity...ever...which is a grotesque violation of ones right to privacy in my opinion.
22:57 December 14, 2009 by piper1
It still amazes me that Germans have to carry these things around.

I understand that it is an offence not to have it on your person.
05:44 December 15, 2009 by Frenemy
@Edmond Schindler: "personal privacy" has been dead for a long time now. If you carry a cellphone (GPS location), or if you ever go out in public (facial recognition by cams in ATM machines, CCTV, etc.)...hell, even if you have a webcam built into your laptop...don't even THINK that you have any semblance of "privacy"!
06:01 December 15, 2009 by rfid
Theres more involved than just an ID... To understand where this is going go to UNRFID com
06:31 December 15, 2009 by Frenemy
HAHAHAHA....I just looked at the website (unrfid dot com) ....that religious paranoia-fueled pseudo science is just what I need to start my day!!

Aside from the scientific flaws and fundamental misunderstandings of certain technologies...the level of conceit/egotism/inflated sense-of-self-worth is astounding!!!! "the anti-christ"??!!! What could POSSIBLY lead you to believe that some (by definition superior) ethereal being could give a flying f#ck about your pathetic and inconsequential corporeal existence or about your "eternal soul"??!! (it would be like you or I worrying about family-dynamics, worker-satisfaction/reward-system in an ant-farm...)
16:07 December 15, 2009 by mixxim
I am a Brit in Germany and am supposed to carry my passport around with me. If only I could get a card....
17:37 December 15, 2009 by Frenemy
I'm German and possess a standard issue Personal Ausweis ... but if you think I'm gonna go out and buy a new wallet just so that I can fit that monstrous notecard-sized piece of sh!t in there you'd be mistaken (besides...the puzzled looks on cops faces when I show them my US drivers license is priceless entertainment)
16:39 December 16, 2009 by lordwilliams629
Frenemy your not german, your just a loud mouth hillbillie that lives in a 100 dollar a month trailer. Hell when you go into your local bar and start drinking you probably tell everyone your full a blooded cherokee indian. Yea thats always a story among drunks in american bars(pubs)they drink a six pack then start claiming their indian.
17:21 December 16, 2009 by Frenemy
Hast du immer noch nicht kapiert das jeder auf diese Website dich fuhr doof Held?! (....And every comment you make only serves to confirm that!!!)
17:28 December 16, 2009 by lordwilliams629
Oh frenemy get out of your fantasy world, you sick demented man, you need help.
08:44 December 17, 2009 by martell
Everybody opting OUT of the fingerprints option is a potential suspect because they "obviously have to hide something" and will be harrassed by the authorities and their long arms.
18:05 December 18, 2009 by onemark

Under German law it is not an offence for a German citizen to have no ID card or a passport on his or her person. However - and this is the Catch-22 - you have to be able to identify yourself to the authorities here on demand. The police are usually content to accept a driving licence but your local town hall won't, so most German find it convenient to have the ID card on them at all times.


Even us Brits are NOT required required to carry our passports around with us all the time. But there's some talk that we will have to carry the proposed electronic foreigners' ID card masquerading as a residence permit (you know, the one with the compulsory fingerprints) on us all the time. Time will tell.


German citizens were allowed to opt out of the fingerprint requirement because (a) it was/is felt in many quarters that this would infringe the right to informational self-determination for many of them and (b) those Germans who have passports are required to hand over both index-fingerprints anyway.

However, there may be a Catch-22 if the private sector starts requiring fingerprints before it lets you do business e.g. banks. But this remains to be seen.

As an aside, apparently us furriners will be obliged to hand over both index-fingerprints for the new, pesky foreigners' ID card - sorry, residence permit.
15:13 December 22, 2009 by Hibernicus
Britain has already dropped plans to have such ID cards which, apart from the dubious use of information by faceless bureaucrats, would have caused difficulties for travellers from Ireland which has no ID card system. Passports should be enough for these official snoops. Just give the snoop your passport number, provided they can supply authority to ask, and they can check it on their ministerial computers. Waste of money and another step towards the 4th Reich. ID cards bedamned! Even the local supermarket now wants to collect personal information on everyone who buys anything. Banks already have all your personal details, not very secure either going on recent experiences here where thousands of customers had their personal details made public "by mistake".
11:39 December 23, 2009 by ?Authority
Well if you were Barrack Obama you wouldn't have to worry about proving who you are to anybody despite the fact, in reality, you are an "undocumented" worker.
09:19 December 24, 2009 by Jaya_papaya
All this tracking and collecting of personal information is already capable and happening with our cellular phones and internet searches. An I.D. card with tracking capabilities just sounds a bit more creepy.
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