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Mandatory Fingerprinting in Kazakhstan: Why Is It Necessary and How Does It Work?

The Kazakh government approved the rules for conducting fingerprinting and genomic registration of the population.

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The dates for the introduction of the mandatory fingerprinting are still unknown. Earlier, it was reported that the Law would begin functioning from the beginning of 2021, but the Ministry of Internal Affairs proposed to postpone the date to January 1, 2023.

It is planned to install special fingerprint scanners in Citizen Service Centers, where they will collect fingerprints and link these data to identity documents. The databases will be available to authorities such as the Ministry of Internal Affairs and the National Security Committee.

Together with Dana Mukhamedzhanova, Ph.D. candidate specializing in International Law of the M. Narikbayev KAZGUU University, we try to figure out who will need to submit fingerprints and DNA and how the system will work.

What is fingerprinting?

Fingerprinting is a special procedure used for identification.

Previously, fingerprinting was carried out by using ink and paper, but modern technologies allow you going through the procedure by scanning with a special hardware.

What is genomic registration?

This is a collection, storage and use of biological material and individual DNA information for identification. Genomic information can help solving and investigating crimes.

The genomic information database will contain information about persons convicted of grave or especially grave crimes, unidentified persons, biological relatives of missing citizens, and unidentified bodies.

Why introduce it in Kazakhstan?

The collected fingerprints will be entered into the biometric database. It is necessary to ensure border control and counter terrorism, as well as to increase the number of solved crimes.

In the international practice, biometric data are used to ensure public safety, maintain order, control migration processes, and improve the efficiency of government authorities’ work in emergencies.

The fingerprinting practice is also widely used for obtaining identity documents, for entering or leaving abroad, in case of emergencies, for obtaining medical certificates, etc.

How will they collect the biometric data?

By fingerprinting. It will simplify identifying and tracing criminals, identifying corpses and searching for missing persons.

Currently, the fingerprints became an indispensable way to protect information from unauthorized persons’ access instead of passwords and codes. They are also used for controlling the employees’ attendance of the workplace, in healthcare and education.

Does this apply to all Kazakh citizens?

The fingerprinting will be mandatory for all Kazakhs above 16 years old; foreign citizens and stateless persons permanently residing in the country; immigrants who arrived in Kazakhstan as domestic workers; foreigners and stateless persons subject to expulsion from the country.

Children of 12-16 years old will be fingerprinted upon receiving a passport, and only with the consent and in the presence of a guardian.

Children under 12 years old, as well as persons with physical disabilities, such as the absence of all fingers, or papillary patterns on the fingers of both hands, are not subject to fingerprint registration.

Can I refuse to do it?

The administrative liability – a fine of 5 indicators for calculations ($31.57) is provided for the refusal to submit fingerprints. 

In case if a citizen after paying the administrative fine keeps refusing to submit the data, he/she will be denied the issuance of an identification document.

Is this not a violation of human rights?

There are significant threats of the violation of human rights to privacy and personal data protection, since biometric data are considered one’s identifying data.

In case of an unauthorized access by third parties, data transmission without any permission, sanction or court decision, according to the basic documents and international human rights standards, it can be argued that the methods of collecting personal data may violate human rights.

This implies that it is important to monitor and record the procedures for proper and adequate protection of citizens’ personal data, as well as to strengthen the work of supervisory authorities in the field of data protection.

What does the international experience in fingerprinting show?

According to the UN Security Council Resolution, there is a requirement for UN member states to implement the biometric data collection systems in accordance with their domestic legislation and international human rights law.

Currently, more than 100 countries have introduced biometric registration systems. For example, for all citizens entering the countries of the European Union, the biometric registration procedure is mandatory.

Russia introduced the Law «On State Genomic Registration».

The Law «On State Fingerprint Registration» introduces the biometric registration for citizens of Belarus.

In the United States, there is a legal requirement for biometric passport data, as well as a mandatory procedure for fingerprinting before entering the country.

The biometric identification project «Aadhaar» in India is the largest biometric database.

The National Genetic Fingerprint Database is used in France and Kuwait. It is interesting that the persons who refuse to submit their fingerprints, in addition to administrative fines, are subject to criminal liability.

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