EU border plan comes under scrutiny

4 Mar 2008

The European Data Protection Supervisor (EDPS) has iterated that the proposals to set up an automated EU border management system, as outlined in recent European Commission communications, must be rigorous in data protection safeguards.

The effect of breaches of data protection law under the new system would not only affect individuals concerned but could have the overall counterproductive effect of eroding trust in EU institutions, warned the EDPS.

The EU issued a communication last month outlining its plan to create an entry/exit system that would include the recording of travellers’ information, the use of biometric data and possibly the creation of a large-scale EU database to store this data.

While acknowledging the legitimate goal the proposals seek to achieve of making EU borders more secure while facilitating movement of bona fide travellers, the EDPS expressed reservations about some of the proposals.

The first comments issued by the EDPS express concern that heavy reliance on biometric data presents inherent weaknesses in terms of accessibility and accuracy and will need to be properly addressed.

It also said the immigration figures contained in the impact assessment published by the Commission are based mainly on estimates or samples, not on undisputable data. The EDPS posits that infringements on the privacy of individuals should be based on solid grounds, clearly demonstrating their need and how extensive they should be.

The EDPS also proposed an evaluation of the numerous existing immigration control systems should be carried out before setting up new ones.

The EDPS intends to publish formal opinions at a later stage, following consultation from the European Commission on precise proposals.

By Niall Byrne