Saturday

16th Dec 2017

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.

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now for a 30 day free trial.

  1. €150 per year
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

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.

Germany says China using LinkedIn to recruit informants

Germany's spy agency says the Chinese state is trying to recruit high-ranking German officials via social media outlets like LinkedIn. It accused Chinese intelligence of setting up fake profiles to lure them into becoming informants.

News in Brief

  1. EU adopts 'track-and-trace' tobacco system
  2. Luxembourg appeals Amazon tax decision
  3. EU leaders agree to open phase 2 of Brexit talks
  4. Juncker: May made 'big efforts' on Brexit
  5. Merkel took 'tough' line on Russia at EU summit
  6. EU leaders added line supporting 'two-state' solution
  7. EU leaders agree to 20 European Universities by 2024
  8. Belgian courts end legal proceedings against Puigdemont

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Dialogue PlatformThe Gülen Community: Who to Believe - Politicians or Actions?" by Thomas Michel
  2. Plastics Recyclers Europe65% plastics recycling rate attainable by 2025 new study shows
  3. European Heart NetworkCommissioner Andriukaitis' Address to EHN on the Occasion of Its 25th Anniversary
  4. ACCACFOs Risk Losing Relevance If They Do Not Embrace Technology
  5. UNICEFMake the Digital World Safer for Children & Increase Access for the Most Disadvantaged
  6. European Jewish CongressWelcomes Recognition of Jerusalem as the Capital of Israel and Calls on EU States to Follow Suit
  7. Mission of China to the EUChina and EU Boost Innovation Cooperation Under Horizon 2020
  8. European Gaming & Betting AssociationJuncker’s "Political" Commission Leaves Gambling Reforms to the Court
  9. AJC Transatlantic InstituteAJC Applauds U.S. Recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s Capital City
  10. EU2017EEEU Telecom Ministers Reached an Agreement on the 5G Roadmap
  11. European Friends of ArmeniaEU-Armenia Relations in the CEPA Era: What's Next?
  12. Mission of China to the EU16+1 Cooperation Injects New Vigour Into China-EU Ties

Latest News

  1. Catalonia, Brexit, and Uber on EU agenda This WEEK
  2. Macron and Merkel take tough line on Poland
  3. Eurozone future needs structural reforms, EU leaders told
  4. Showdown EU vote on asylum looking likely for next June
  5. EU stresses unity as it launches next phase of Brexit talks
  6. Polish PM ready for EU sanctions scrap
  7. Dutchman to lead powerful euro working group
  8. EU mulls post-Brexit balance of euro and non-eurozone states

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. EPSUEU Blacklist of Tax Havens Is a Sham
  2. EU2017EERole of Culture in Building Cohesive Societies in Europe
  3. ILGA EuropeCongratulations to Austria - Court Overturns Barriers to Equal Marriage
  4. Centre Maurits CoppietersCelebrating Diversity, Citizenship and the European Project With Fundació Josep Irla
  5. European Healthy Lifestyle AllianceUnderstanding the Social Consequences of Obesity
  6. Union for the MediterraneanMediterranean Countries Commit to Strengthening Women's Role in Region
  7. Bio-Based IndustriesRegistration for BBI JU Stakeholder Forum about to close. Last chance to register!
  8. European Heart NetworkThe Time Is Ripe for Simplified Front-Of-Pack Nutrition Labelling
  9. Counter BalanceNew EU External Investment Plan Risks Sidelining Development Objectives
  10. EU2017EEEAS Calls for Eastern Partnership Countries to Enter EU Market Through Estonia
  11. Dialogue PlatformThe Turkey I No Longer Know
  12. World Vision7 Million Children at Risk in the DRC: Donor Meeting to Focus on Saving More Lives