Interview with former BKA chief Jörg Ziercke

03/03/16

By Craig Guthrie, deputy editor

Jörg Ziercke is the former president of the Bundeskriminalamt (Federal Criminal Police Office of Germany) and currently a strategic advisor for Veridos, the German identification solution provider for governments around the world.

Security Document World talked to him about key border challenges in a time of increased tensions over population movements.

What, in your view, is the best path towards improved identification services?

Personally, I think that identification services should be regarded holistically rather than separated into identity cards or capturing devices, for example. Whether you are working with private institutions or government bodies, identification services should be adapted to suit their environment and must be user-centric.

Clearly, the secure document, be it plastic or paper-based, remains key to such a system. However, it is not simply about technology. What I have learned over the many years I've been working in the sector is that reliable and professional project management is also a key factor for successfully implementing these systems.

Has Germany taken any particular steps towards improving border control that other countries could learn from?

Germany is now using the latest technology at border control to exploit the capabilities that modern, biometric ID documents provide. The electronic and optical security features of the documents are checked thoroughly using innovative technology from Bundesdruckerei and 140 automated border control EasyPASS eGates have recently been installed at the country's major airports. The ePassport’s capabilities are used to facilitate border control for citizens of the EU, EEA and Switzerland. German citizens may even use their new, modern national identity card at the eGates.

How important is innovation for secure document and identity management when tackling European challenges such as the current migration issue?

That is indeed an issue of primary concern to all security institutions. How to enhance document security without creating an overly sophisticated solution when there is little time for long specification processes and field trials is certainly challenging! There is also the question of how we can manage our existing stock of data better - on a national and European level - given the large number of immigrants entering Western Europe every day. Despite the challenge, we should not reduce our efforts in identity management innovation since this is absolutely key to countering illegal immigration.

In Germany, we do have the industrial capabilities needed to cope with the current challenges. Many German companies are leading-edge innovators in this field and are willing to support the government on this matter. There is also much discussion and cooperation already going on between providers of secure identification and the public authorities, which is certainly a great advantage.

What role does border control play in the context of national security?

A number of terrorist attacks have been carried out across the world by perpetrators who have entered the countries illegally or presented fake identification at border controls. Counterfeit-proof identification documents are therefore a key component in forming effective border control. The threat of international terrorism has risen considerably, making border security an increasingly important factor – and that's not just the case in Europe.

Do you believe that European border security will intensify as a result of current tensions? Will this result in an increased demand for skills and technology in border control and other identification operations?

Managing European border security is a task that EU countries will only be able to fulfill by working together. Cooperation between countries is needed to cope with the current challenges associated with the high numbers of immigrants and refugees. In light of the terrorist attacks in recent weeks, there is also the need to strengthen counter-terrorist measures at the same time. It is not difficult to find examples then in this context where technology can help to improve operations.

Each member state is using its own set of tools to support border guards and police officers in their daily work. These tools are most often designed with only one user group in mind. When it comes to joint operations however, users from other countries and the local forces should be able to use the same tools to make operations more efficient. In practice, this often fails. Even something as simple as the language settings proves challenging as the user interfaces for the tools are not usually designed with the option of switching to another language. Understanding local processes is yet another challenge faced by anyone seeking to cooperate on a joint project.

The solution then has to be top-down. We have to begin at a European level where we define clear procedures and technical requirements for the technology we use so that joint operations become more effective.

 

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