Sunday

20th Jan 2019

IT security system threatens EU rights

  • Italian police ID check asylum seekers (Photo: Alice Latta)

Efforts at the EU level to better coordinate IT systems – to fight crime, terrorism, and manage migration – drew a sharp rebuke from the EU's Fundamental Rights Agency (FRA).

FRA's director, Michael O'Flaherty, told MEPs on Monday (29 May) that making the numerous databases more interoperable poses serious fundamental rights issues and could lead to discriminatory profiling.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

He also said that interoperable databases are very likely to be highly attractive for those trying to access personal data by illegal means.

"This could include organised crime groups, as well as hackers linked to foreign governments seeking to prevent political opponents from leaving those states," he said.

The EU has been working, in the aftermath of the Paris and Brussels attacks in 2015 and 2016, to figure out better ways of sharing information on security and borders among authorities in different member states.

The move is part of a broader strategy behind the EU's security union to link up all EU information systems for security, border, and migration management.

Some, like the EU's counter-terrorism coordinator, Gilles de Kerchove, want facial image scans to replace fingerprints in the systems.

But the more immediate plan includes improving existing databases such as the Schengen Information System (SIS), which issues alerts on missing and wanted people, and the irregular migration database, Eurodac, among others.

The European Commission has also proposed a new EU entry-exit system to modernise external border management, and the European travel information and authorisation system (Ecris) to gather advanced information on people travelling visa-free to the EU.

Next month, the commission also plans on proposing legislation to expand the powers of eu-Lisa, the EU agency that hosts the big IT systems.

Plans are also underway to set up a so-called European search portal, a shared biometric matching service, and a common identity repository.

The European search portal is an interface that allows police and border guards to enter queries and receive responses from the various databases.

The shared biometric matching service means fingerprint data held in all information systems will be more easily available to police forces.

The common identity repository means core identity data – such as names, date of births, or genders – of people in the systems will only be stored once, to avoid duplication.

The EU commission says the plan is not to create one big database where everything is interconnected, but rather to better streamline existing databases and make them speak to each other.

But while O'Flaherty noted the advantages behind the plans, he also pointed out some risks.

He noted that making those systems interoperable will increase the chances that personal data is unlawfully shared with other countries outside the EU.

Such breaches pose serious risks to people seeking international protection, as well as to their families.

He said officials are also more likely to see information they are not entitled to, which could influence the decisions of the person concerned.

The worry is amplified if a person's personal data is incorrect. Inaccurate information entered into one system is passed onto another.

FRA has already documented numerous instances where inaccurate data has been entered into existing databases in the areas of borders, visas, and asylum.

"We asked staff at selected EU consulates how often they or their colleagues see incorrect personal data entered into one of the IT systems, half the staff we interviewed reported incidences of wrong matches or inaccurate data," O'Flaherty said.

Communication problems

The biometric data of minors is also a big issue. As children grow older, their physical development may reduce the reliability of biometric data over time.

The commission argues that the sharing of accurate and reliable information is crucial following the terrorists attacks around Europe.

"One of the major causes of these problems is that the systems are, on occasion, unable to communicate and share information between one system and another," said EU security commissioner Julian King.

King, who was speaking alongside O'Flaherty, noted that the core task behind the plan is to make all centralised EU information systems interoperable.

The information systems included would be: "the Schengen Information System, the Visa Information System, Eurodac, the proposed EU entry-exit system, the proposed Etias, and the proposed European Criminal Records and Information System for third country nationals," said King.

EU starts border checks on everyone

Border authorities will be required to verify the identities of EU nationals whenever leaving or entering the European Union.

EU ministers to discuss 'smart borders'

EU ministers in Luxembourg Thursday will discuss how to use technology and whether to set up an EU border guard corps to better secure external borders.

EU parliament groups want inquiry into terror failures

The centre-right EPP and liberal Alde want EU state intelligence and police services to explain how people known to them were still able to commit terror attacks. The two groups are proposing a special committee.

Investigation

UK unlawfully copying data from EU police system

The British government is abusing EU travel security systems, making and using illegal copies of outdated information, and putting innocent people at risk of being red-flagged.

EU mulls coercion to get refugee kids' fingerprints

EU policy and law makers are ironing out final details of a legislative reform on collecting the fingerprints of asylum seekers and refugees, known as Eurodac. The latest plan includes possibly using coercion against minors, which one MEP calls "violence".

News in Brief

  1. EU trade commissioner asks for green light for US talks
  2. Slovakia's commissioner takes unpaid leave to run for presidency
  3. Minority elects Lofven as prime minister of Sweden
  4. Putin opposes EU prospects of Serbia and Kosovo
  5. Tsipras launches campaign to ratify Macedonia deal
  6. US-EU meeting in doubt after Trump cancels plane
  7. Germany and China to sign pact on finance cooperation
  8. Labour divided on second Brexit vote plan

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. International Partnership For Human RightsKyrgyz authorities have to immediately release human rights defender Azimjon Askarov
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersSeminar on disability and user involvement
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersInternational appetite for Nordic food policies
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Nordic Innovation House in Hong Kong
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region has chance to become world leader when it comes to start-ups
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersTheresa May: “We will not be turning our backs on the Nordic region”
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsOpen letter to Emmanuel Macron ahead of Uzbek president's visit
  8. International Partnership for Human RightsRaising key human rights concerns during visit of Turkmenistan's foreign minister
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersState of the Nordic Region presented in Brussels
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersThe vital bioeconomy. New issue of “Sustainable Growth the Nordic Way” out now
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic gender effect goes international
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersPaula Lehtomaki from Finland elected as the Council's first female Secretary General

Latest News

  1. Aachen treaty and Brexit endgame This WEEK
  2. Germany led way on EU rights protection
  3. How to troll the European Parliament elections
  4. MEPs in Strasbourg: everywhere but the plenary
  5. Brexit delay 'reasonable', as May tries cross-party talks
  6. MEPs allow Draghi's membership of secretive bank group
  7. EU parliament backs Morocco deal despite row
  8. Barnier open to 'future relations' talks if UK red lines shift

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic design sets the stage at COP24, running a competition for sustainable chairs
  2. Counter BalanceIn Kenya, a motorway funded by the European Investment Bank runs over roadside dwellers
  3. ACCACompany Law Package: Making the Best of Digital and Cross Border Mobility,
  4. International Partnership for Human RightsCivil Society Worried About Shortcomings in EU-Kyrgyzstan Human Rights Dialogue
  5. UNESDAThe European Soft Drinks Industry Supports over 1.7 Million Jobs
  6. Mission of China to the EUJointly Building Belt and Road Initiative Leads to a Better Future for All
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsCivil society asks PACE to appoint Rapporteur to probe issue of political prisoners in Azerbaijan
  8. ACCASocial Mobility – How Can We Increase Opportunities Through Training and Education?
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersEnergy Solutions for a Greener Tomorrow
  10. UNICEFWhat Kind of Europe Do Children Want? Unicef & Eurochild Launch Survey on the Europe Kids Want
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Countries Take a Stand for Climate-Smart Energy Solutions
  12. Mission of China to the EUChina: Work Together for a Better Globalisation

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us