A consortium headed by Hewlett-Packard is to develop Europe's 'Big Brother' system for the European Commission. Along with Steria, Mummert in Germany and Primesphere in Luxembourg, HP is to produce a "high-quality technology model" for the second generation of the Schengen Information System (SIS) II and the Visa Information System (VIS) - Europe's Justice and Home Affairs Committee envisages these two systems replacing a border control system (SIS I) with a far more pervasive one of surveillance, controls and information exchange.
Although HP announced the signing of the contract today, the European Commission tells us the deal was actually struck late last year. We've no idea whether the latest version signifies some change in the contract, or merely that HP Belgium communicates with HP global via messages in bottles. Whatever...
HP's announcement doesn't mention Big Brother, but does follow a mention of the Schengen treaty's aim to "allow free movement of persons in Europe" with... "SIS II, will provide information on wanted persons as well as stolen vehicles, ID documents and banknotes through a database accessed by national police authorities of all participating member states. Once it is fully functional in 2007, SIS II will be much more flexible than the current system and will also be able to store photographic images and fingerprints. In addition, the infrastructure of the new system will make it easier to adapt to future EU requirements."
The storage of "images and fingerprints" relates to Justice and Home Affairs' plans for biometric passports, visas and residence permits, and for an EU standard for national ID cards. The EU has gone further than the basic ICAO and US requirement standard for biometric passports by including fingerprints, and also intends all visas to be biometric (which is where VIS comes in). Residence permits are also to be biometric, and with the ID card standard on the horizon, but not yet specified, the pan-European biometric ID system is taking shape.
Add in various other bits of data sharing (vehicle databases, no-travel lists and a "restricted access terrorist database") and access (various European and national police and security services), and you've got SIS II, which HP is designing so it can grow in accordance with Justice and Home Affairs imaginative "future EU requirements."
HP tells us the system will be fully functional in 2007, and reveals that the servers it will be supplying are the singularly inappropriately-named (they're going to the European Commission, for god's sake...) Integrity Superdome. Not an expression that springs automatically to mind at the mention of Brussels, surely... ®
Statewatch explains SIS II
Statewatch on biometrics and EU here and here
Security and interop issues cause EU biometric passport delays
Finger, faceprints get green light for Europe's ID standard