Thursday

26th Nov 2020

UK taking 'steps' after illegal copying of EU Schengen data

  • Investigators had also found EU security data breaches at Heathrow airport (Photo: Valentina Pop)

The European Commission has indirectly confirmed the UK made illegal copies of classified personal information from a database reserved for members of the passport-free Schengen travel zone.

Asked to comment on the classified report, obtained and revealed by this website early last year, Julian King, the European commissioner for security, on Wednesday (24 July) said "those are meant to be confidential discussions that we have with the individual member states."

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

Without citing the UK by name, he then said the country had since taken a series of what he described as "practical steps" to address the issues identified in the report.

"It is not just one member state that has some challenges in this area, there are a number of member states that have challenges in this area," he said.

The 29-page report had listed years of violations by British authorities, following restricted access to the Schengen Information System (SIS).

SIS is an EU-run database used by police to track down undocumented migrants, missing people, stolen property, or suspected criminals.

Although the UK is not in the Schengen area, which includes 26 other European countries, it has been given limited access to SIS since 2015.

The document, drafted by Schengen experts from EU states and by the European commission, had said the UK violations "constitute serious and immediate risks to the integrity and security of SIS data as well as for the data subjects."

Among other things, the UK had made numerous full and partial copies of SIS, increasing the risk of further data breaches.

Its sloppy disregard of the rules include making unlawful copies of data, which it then stored on laptops at airports and government offices.

Private contractors like IBM hired by the UK government were also given access.

Entrusting private contractors to handle such sensitive information, which included photographs and fingerprints, only increased risks in terms of physical and logical data security, noted the report.

US firms are also obliged to hand over the data to the US government if so requested under the Patriot Act.

Furthermore, given the SIS database is constantly updated, it means partial or full copies placed on laptops remains static - posing serious issues for anyone whose name or identity is supposed to have been removed.

"SIS data is not deleted when the issuing member states deletes it but kept in this database," warned the report.

It had also noted that the UK had failed to implement numerous recommendations to address "very serious deficiencies" already made in 2015.

King said the probe carried out in the lead up to the report is part of a rolling process to make sure that all EU states respect SIS and other EU-wide information systems.

"It is crucial if we are going to have faith in those systems," he said.

The issue comes amid heightened anxiety over the UK's end of October deadline to leave the European Union. The UK wants to keep security access to EU databases like SIS.

King, himself British, said that in the event of a no-deal Brexit, security cooperation would have to be based on other international and non-EU frameworks.

"I have to say, since I have spent the past three and half years of my life devoted to this, EU frameworks are better than many areas than the other existing international frameworks," he said.

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.

MEPs slam UK for violating EU police database

EUobserver's revelations of how the UK violates and abuses an EU police database sparked heated debate in the European Parliament's civil liberties committee - as the European Commission refused to respond to questions given the confidentiality of the leaked document.

Exclusive

Balkan spies 'feed' EU's police database via Czechs

Western Balkan secret services have handed over more the 250 alerts on suspected foreign terrorist fighters since last summer - fed into the EU's police database by the Czech Republic, according to a confidential document seen by EUobserver.

'Golden Passports': Malta takes 67 days to respond to EU

The European Commission exchanged 24 letters with Bulgaria, Cyprus and Malta over their 'Golden Passports' schemes between October 2019 and October 2020. Malta took 67 days to respond to the commission's first letter, followed by Cyprus (42) then Bulgaria.

News in Brief

  1. Dutch far-right leader resigns over antisemitism
  2. Germany to relax corona rules for Christmas
  3. New US leader against hard border in Ireland
  4. EU ties Afghanistan aid money to democracy
  5. EU drug regulator optimistic on vaccine prospects
  6. EU study warns of impact of non-CO2 aircraft emissions
  7. Cross-country MPs urge EU to protect Poles' rights
  8. MEPs adopt group-action consumer rights redress

Opinion

Rule-of-law deal: major step for Europe of values

At the very moment when an incumbent president across the Atlantic was carrying out staggering attacks on the foundations of democracy, the European Parliament obtained a historic agreement to protect the rule of law in Europe.

EU to target migrant integration and encrypted apps

Migrants ought to learn EU languages and "integrate" their children, while encrypted messaging apps should give keys to authorities to combat terrorism, EU ministers are preparing to say.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersJoin the Nordic climate debate on 17 November!
  2. UNESDAMaking healthier diets the easy choice
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersUN Secretary General to meet with Nordic Council on COVID-19
  4. UNESDAWell-designed Deposit Return Schemes can help reach Single-Use Plastics Directive targets
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Council meets Belarusian opposition leader Svetlana Tichanovskaja
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region to invest DKK 250 million in green digitalised business sector

Latest News

  1. Watchdog slams Commission on BlackRock 'green rules' deal
  2. EU reaches out to nationals of migrant origin
  3. German minister predicts rule-of-law solution in 'days'
  4. EU red-flags Israel's Givat Hamatos settlement
  5. US economic nationalism will be subtler - but it will persist
  6. Georgia's 'rigged' elections? Takeaways for the EU
  7. There is 'no Russia-Turkey alliance'
  8. EU air quality improves, but pollution levels still high

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us