15th Dec 2019

EU-wide database raises data protection concerns

A database used at the EU’s borders is raising concerns over how much sensitive information it will hold about citizens and the increased number of people who may have access to it.

The database, known as the Schengen Information System(SIS), was conceived eight years ago as a compensatory measure for lifting the internal borders within the EU (except the UK and Ireland).

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 30-day free trial.

... or join as a group

It is accessed at border posts and other locations and allows officials to retrieve information quickly on missing persons, arrest warrants, false passports and stolen vehicles.

However, with 10 new countries joining the EU bloc next year, a second generation of the SIS is being developed (SIS II), capable of processing more information and containing more data than the present system.

"The current system cannot cope with more than 18 Member States, and it is therefore outdated", Justice and Home Affairs Commissioner Antonio Vitorino said on Monday evening (6 October) in the European Parliament.

Amongst the new functions currently proposed in SIS II, due to start operating in 2006, are the inclusion of biometric data (fingerprints, facial images) and access to certain categories of information by Europol - created to improve police cooperation between the Member States to combat terrorism and other serious forms of international crime - and Eurojust - which facilitates coordination among Member States' judicial authorities.

Fundamental changes in SIS

"The proposals would result in a fundamental change to the nature of the system", the Joint Supervisory Authority, the body that supervises the technical functioning of the SIS said in a statement.

"Whereas the SIS simply alerts the relevant authorities should a particular individual try to cross a Schengen border, the SIS II looks set to become a multi-purpose investigation tool".

The change in nature of the SIS II was also stated by Commissioner Vitorino himself.

"I think the SIS II is not just a pure database as SIS. The new generation has to be more sensitive on concerns for security and cross border crime".

What about data protection?

The prospect of a new system that allows authorities to share information on millions of individuals for a variety of purposes is raising the issue of what impact this will have on the rights of individuals, particularly the right to data protection.

The SIS currently contains about 11.3 million records. The number of records on wanted persons is estimated at 870,000; 770,000 of which are alerts on persons to be refused entry.

Data protection concerns have been voiced by the Joint Supervisory Authority and by various euro-parliamentarians from the Civil Liberties Committee.

In his draft report which is expected to be discussed in the committee in the following weeks, Portuguese Christian Democrat Carlos Coelho requests that each proposal for granting access to new authorities be thoroughly examined. In particular, which authorities need to have access to the SIS and what data they are allowed to access.

Moreover, proposals to allow Europol and Eurojust to transmit information to third countries are also raising concerns about lack of sufficient safeguards over the protection of data.

Pressure mounts to grill Malta's Muscat at EU summit

The Dutch prime minister and figures from the European Parliament are both piling on pressure for leaders at the EU summit to discuss the rule of law in Malta, as the presence of the island-nation's prime minister draws protests.

News in Brief

  1. EU Scream podcast wins media award
  2. Sturgeon will set out Scottish independence plan next week
  3. Slovenia, Croatia ex-leaders highlight jailed Catalans
  4. Italian court tells Facebook to reopen fascist party's account
  5. EU extends sanctions on Russia until mid-2020
  6. UK exit poll gives Johnson majority of 86
  7. Orban: 'financial guarantees' to reach climate neutrality
  8. Merkel hopes EU leaders agree 2050 climate-neutrality

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of Ministers40 years of experience have proven its point: Sustainable financing actually works
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic and Baltic ministers paving the way for 5G in the region
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersEarmarked paternity leave – an effective way to change norms
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Climate Action Weeks in December
  5. UNESDAUNESDA welcomes Nicholas Hodac as new Director General
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersBrussels welcomes Nordic culture

Latest News

  1. EU values face scrutiny This WEEK
  2. EU sighs relief after 'decisive' Johnson victory in UK
  3. Huge win for Conservatives in UK election
  4. Behind bars: a visit to an imprisoned Catalan politician
  5. Leaders agree 2050 climate neutrality - without Poland
  6. EU leaders cagey on 'Future of Europe' conference
  7. Pressure mounts to grill Malta's Muscat at EU summit
  8. Revealed: little evidence to justify internal border checks

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNESDAUNESDA appoints Nicholas Hodac as Director General
  2. UNESDASoft drinks industry co-signs Circular Plastics Alliance Declaration
  3. FEANIEngineers Europe Advisory Group: Building the engineers of the future
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNew programme studies infectious diseases and antibiotic resistance
  5. UNESDAUNESDA reduces added sugars 11.9% between 2015-2017
  6. International Partnership for Human RightsEU-Uzbekistan Human Rights Dialogue: EU to raise key fundamental rights issues

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us