EU data sharing initiative criticised

The plan for a number of EU member states to develop systems that would enable them to exchange intelligence data has come under fire from the watchdog organisation the European Data Protection Supervisor.

May 3, 2007
By David Howell

The plan for a number of EU member states to develop systems that would enable them to exchange intelligence data has come under fire from the watchdog organisation the European Data Protection Supervisor.

Concerns have been raised about the levels of security that the new system would have in place to protect the public from any misuse of the data that would be stored and exchanged.

The new system, known as the Treaty of Prum after the German town where the agreement was signed by seven EU countries in 2005, would give all signatories access to DNA and fingerprint data. Germany, and Austria are already testing the database exchange systems with Belgium, France, Luxemburg, the Netherlands and Spain to follow.

Peter Hustinx, EDPS, says: “Data protection plays an important role in the Prum Treaty and the provisions have been carefully drafted. But they are meant as specific ones, on top of a general framework for data protection, which unfortunately has still not been adopted. That framework is needed to give the citizen enough protection, since this decision will make it much easier to exchange DNA and fingerprint data.”

The opinion reflects that the initiative is of a unique nature within European cooperation: 15 member states propose to extend the application of the Treaty of Prum, concluded between seven of them, to the whole EU without allowing for any major revision. Therefore, the EDPS’ suggestions mainly serve to improve the text without modifying the system of information exchange itself. Clarifications will ensure a harmonised implementation into national law and guarantee citizens’ rights as much as possible.

It is hoped that an agreement can be reached with all 27 EU member states by the end of June.

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