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The Visa Information System (VIS), the Schengen Information System (SIS I and II) and the European Passenger Name Record (PNR), the EU Terrorist Finance Tracking Programme, Eurosur There is a proliferation of databases and seemingly technical projects to control the arrival to - and, soon, also the departure from - EU territory of non-European citizens. Aside from their cost, these "smart borders" - largely inspired by US anti-terrorist action in the wake of 11 September 2001 - pose serious problems in terms of private data protection, as well as non-discrimination on the basis of the nationality or ethnic group of foreigners. Such is the opinion recently presented by experts working on a study commissioned by the European Parliament's Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE) and published on its website. The EU, also affected by terrorist attacks on 11 March 2004 in Madrid and 7 July 2005 in London, started out by developing tools specifically for the Schengen area of free movement: the VIS requires fingerprints and biographical data from all candidates, while SIS and soon SIS II collect the data of foreigners who should be turned away or who should be subjected to extra tests.

But those of the Commission's projects that address national expectations - ie recording entry and exit, facilitating entry for preselected regular travellers and coordinating national border control authorities thanks to the Eurosur project - propose going much further. So much further that they risk defying EU rules on private data protection and non-discrimination. The authors of the report (academics, researchers and a member of the NGO Statewatch) point out that one particular area of concern is non-discrimination, and how the development of collecting and exchanging data can generate statistical discrimination effects linked to profiling and data exploration. In their view, the EU can no longer only monitor its external borders but most also build the foundations of a surveillance of foreigners within the Union, and also outside of it. In other words, the experts suggest an information system - an "irreversible" development, as the study puts it - taking information from multifunction databases, whose aim would not be as straightforward as simply fighting crime. The study regrets that there is no clear definition of EU justice and home affairs databases. Nor does the EU provide regular details on the quantity of data collected and exchanged, while the lines between the various databases seem porous and the distinction between private data and non-private data tends to be replaced by a distinction between private and operational data - with the second including anonymous' or depersonalised' data. That would require the certainty that police forces will in fact render them anonymous.

The study is available > Search = 327537

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Publication:European Report
Date:Jan 7, 2013

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