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Liberty groups attack plan for EU health ID card

London Telegraph

The European Union took its first step yesterday towards the creation of an EU-wide health identity card able to store a range of biometric and personal data on a microchip by 2008. Approved by Union ministers in Luxembourg, the plastic disk will slide into the credit-card pouch of a wallet or purse.

The European Health Insurance Card is intended to end the bureaucratic misery of E111 forms currently used by travellers who fall ill in other EU countries. Eventually it will replace a plethora of other complex forms needed for longer stays.

But civil liberties groups said it was the start of a scheme for a harmonised data chip that would quickly evolve into an EU "identity card" containing intrusive information off all kinds that could be read by a computer.

During the first phase from June 1 next year, each country will be able to choose whether to include photographs, fingerprints and biometric data, such as eye measurements, on the "national" side of the card. Britain is opting for a minimalist version.

The European Commission said yesterday that the final phase in 2008 would add a "smart chip" containing a range of data, including health files and records of treatment received. "The ultimate objective is to have an electronic chip on the card, as the technology improves," said a spokesman.

Tony Bunyan, the head of Statewatch, said it was part of a disturbing Union-wide erosion of privacy since September 11 2001. "We all know where they're heading with this," he said. "They want a single card with all our data on one chip. It'll be a passport and driver's licence rolled into one with everything from our national insurance numbers, bank accounts, to health records."

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