Border security and the digitalisation of sovereignty: insights from EU borderwork

Journal article

Martins, Bruno Oliveira; Kristoffer Lidén & Maria Gabrielsen Jumbert (2022) Border security and the digitalisation of sovereignty: insights from EU borderwork, European Security 31 (3): 475–494.

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The European Union’s effort at controlling its external borders is an endeavour that increasingly relies on digital systems: from tools for information gathering and surveillance to systems for communicating between different agencies and across member states. This makes EU borders a key site for the politics of “digital sovereignty” – of controlling digital data, software and infrastructures. In this article, we propose a new understanding of how the concepts of digital and sovereignty interplay: sovereignty by digital means, sovereignty of the digital, and sovereignty over the digital. We do it by analysing three key manifestations within the EU’s borderwork: firstly, the expansion of EURODAC to include facial biometric data; secondly, the creation of the (future) shared Biometric Matching System (sBMS); and thirdly, the EU-funded West Africa Police Information System (WAPIS). These databases and systems exemplify three transformations of EU borderwork that invoke different dimensions of digital sovereignty: expansion of techniques for governing migration; interoperability of EU databases facilitating the internalisation of borders through domestic policing; and extra-territorialization of borderwork beyond the geographic limits of the EU.

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