Corrupt EU police forces could be handed Britons’ personal data


by Rumbold
4th February, 2011 at 12:18 pm    

Air travellers will be more likely to be hit by fraud after the British government lent their support to a proposal that would allow any police officer, even in mafia-infiltrated states like Bulgaria, to access a passenger’s credit card details and their address:

Telephone numbers, addresses, credit card numbers, email and other details of British air travellers will be available on demand for all of the EU’s police forces, including countries such as Bulgaria and Romania where corruption among law enforcement officials is widespread. The system, billed on Wednesday as an anti-terrorism measure, will track all travellers and will also allow any EU police officer access to the data on suspicion of a serious crime, including offences that are not a crime in Britain. Civil liberties campaigners fear the new EU surveillance system will make Britons more vulnerable to miscarriages of justice amid growing concern over EU policing measures and the lack of safeguards or judicial standards in some European countries.

Even Europhiles should be worried about significantly more individuals having access to personal data, especially relating to credit cards and identity. The transfer of powers to the EU has continued in much the same way as under Labour, which is not overly surprising.


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  1. douglas clark — on 4th February, 2011 at 12:59 pm  

    Rumbold,

    The anti-terror mantra just keeps on giving, don’t it?

  2. Boyo — on 4th February, 2011 at 1:41 pm  

    If you replaced “Bulgaria” with “Pakistan” would you have employed quite the same tone?

    Few police forces are uncorrupt. This is really the sort of thing I’d expect to read in the Daily Mail Rumbold!

  3. Rumbold — on 4th February, 2011 at 1:55 pm  

    Douglas:

    It does.

    Boyo:

    Bulgaria’s state has been infected with organised crime. In Pakistan organised crime isn’t allowed into the system as all the looting is done by Mr. 10%.

  4. ukliberty — on 4th February, 2011 at 3:00 pm  
  5. MaidMarian — on 4th February, 2011 at 4:19 pm  

    A conversation between Rumbold and an air traveller

    Rumbold: Hello, do you know that you have to give lots of data to fly.

    Traveller: Well, yes, it is not as if it is a secret.

    R: Did you know that it might be shared?

    T: Well, not to the extent that you mention perhaps. But flying is not compulsory.

    R: Well – no I suppose. But did you know that you might be investigated for a crime.

    T: Sorry, you mean that if I commit a crime overseas I should have total immunity from investigation?

    R: Well that’s not what I meant, but it might not be a crime in the UK.

    T: So if someone from overseas commits a crime in the UK you think they should not be investigated by virtue of them being foreign? Sounds to me like you are seeing dogma about data-sharing as more important than thorough investigation of crime.

    R: But what about police corruption?

    T: Well, that’s a concern wherever you go isn’t it? Unless you are a bit swivel-eyed and believe in some generalised notion of Johnny-foreigner is always and everywhere corrupt?

    R: Oh, um.

  6. ukliberty — on 4th February, 2011 at 4:40 pm  

    Rumbold might say that it appears the proposal hasn’t been properly assessed and, as evidence, point to all the bodies cited by the Impact Assessment (which, to be fair, then goes on to try to mollify the critics):

    The main criticism expressed in the Resolution of the European Parliament was that the ‘necessity’ of the proposed actions had not been sufficiently demonstrated. It questioned whether the proposal met the standard for justifying an interference with the right to data protection. The Resolution expressed the Parliament’s concern that the added value of the proposal in the light of other border initiatives had not been assessed. In terms of data protection the European Parliament called for a clear purpose limitation and a better justification of the retention period and stressed that sensitive data should be used only under certain conditions and that data should be transmitted using exclusively the “push” method.

    The Article 29 Data Protection Working Party adopted an opinion on the proposal on 5.12.200713. It considered that the proposal was disproportionate and that it might violate the right to data protection. It called into question the data protection regime as the Framework Decision 2008/977/JHA does not cover domestic processing of data. It considered that the justification for the necessity of the proposal was inadequate, that the data retention period was disproportionate and that only the “push” method of transmission of data should be used.

    The European Data Protection Supervisor (EDPS) also issued an opinion on the proposal14. This opinion questioned whether the “necessity” and “proportionality” of the proposal had been demonstrated since the proposal concerned a very wide collection of data of innocent people.

    The Fundamental Rights Agency issued an opinion on the proposal after being requested to do so by the French Presidency of the Council15. It was also of the opinion that the “necessity” and “proportionality” of the proposal had not been demonstrated and it considered that there should be more guarantees in the proposal so as to avoid profiling on the basis of sensitive data.

    On 10 September 2010, the Commission’s Impact Assessment Board delivered an opinion on a
    preliminary version of this Impact Assessment report. In the opinion, the Board stated that the
    Impact Assessment report provides a sound basis for action. It recommended that the report
    should provide additional information on the following issues:
    – Further illustrate, through examples, that PNR data are an effective tool for combating
    terrorism and serious crime;
    – Further clarify the rationale for the geographical scope of the initiative;
    – Further discuss the different ranges of data retention periods, the optimal duration of the
    transition period from ‘pull’ to ‘push’, presentation of the position of the Member States and the
    possibility of voluntary cooperation between Member States as a means of achieving the
    objectives of the initiative; and
    – Further clarify the costs for carriers, public authorities and passengers.

    Then the traveller might say, bloody hell, if they haven’t properly justified it why on earth should it happen?

  7. MaidMarian — on 4th February, 2011 at 4:44 pm  

    ‘Then the traveller might say, bloody hell, if they haven’t properly justified it why on earth should it happen?’

    Our student said much the same thing, but Rumbold still had no problems.

  8. ukliberty — on 4th February, 2011 at 4:57 pm  

    Previously, on PNR:

    Has PNR been useful in combatting terrorism?

    Synopsis: The EU Select Committee was persuaded that “PNR data, when used in conjunction with data from other sources, can significantly assist in the identification of terrorists, whether before a planned attack or after such an attack”, but no-one was able to say how useful it is.

  9. douglas clark — on 4th February, 2011 at 5:58 pm  

    ukliberty @ 8,

    Thanks, that is a very useful link. It also provides a link to a House of Lords Committee which, inter alia, says that the UK would like to use the data captured for wider purposes than the EU proposed.

    We are expected to accept the government spending our money to protect us when there is no indication whatsoever that the technology is, actually, protecting us from anything.

    We need some hard facts about the advantages of this both at a UK and an EU level before it goes any further.

    I think that without that evidence – i.e., that this is useful in capturing terrorists – then the whole thing is just another bureaucratic jolly. Parkinsons Law in action, even!

  10. douglas clark — on 4th February, 2011 at 6:04 pm  

    ukliberty @ 8

    Sorry, just to add that I agree with you about Ms in’t Veldt who seems to be a better parliamentarian than most of our lot. It is worth extracting at least this from her commennts:

    f the people who are proposing this are so convinced that it is useful then I am sure they have all the supporting evidence … It is just that they have never produced it and every time you get the same argument, ‘Oh, no, we cannot tell you that for security purposes’ … All we have asked for, for example, is facts and figures which would not give away any operational details … all you get are horror stories by Mr Chertoff[26] which impress his audience, but, sorry, we are legislators. If I put my stamp of approval as a Member of Parliament on the law then I want to be absolutely sure that it has a solid justification, and we just never get any proper evidence” (QQ 96-97). Ms Verkleij saw no reason to exclude parliaments from this kind of debate.

    Can I vote for her :-)

  11. ukliberty — on 4th February, 2011 at 6:07 pm  

    Thanks douglas.

  12. Rumbold — on 5th February, 2011 at 10:07 am  

    MaidMarian:

    What ukliberty said. I take your point that flying is not compulsory, and that anyone who doesn’t want to share the data doesn’t have to fly, but that is not much of an argument, because there are not always effective substitutes for flying. Nor is pointing out that the Bulgarian state is regarded as institutionally corrupt is hardly stereotyping Johnny Foreigner. I just haven’t been convinced that a vastly increased number of officials need to see sensitive data about me, and that should always be the measure of any law: it is up for the lawmakers to prove why it matters, not the other way around.

  13. ukliberty — on 5th February, 2011 at 11:26 am  

    Rumbold,

    I take your point that flying is not compulsory, and that anyone who doesn’t want to share the data doesn’t have to fly, but that is not much of an argument, because there are not always effective substitutes for flying.

    They want to record all passenger movements across borders: trains, ferries, flights…. even using a yacht to sail across the Channel. It’s not compulsory to leave the country but it would be nice if we could do so without having to give up all this information without justification.

    It’s not just borders – consider the ANPR. All of our transactions and movements were / are intended to be recorded.

    It would be nice to be able to live freely and privately and any interference with that had to be justified beforehand.

  14. ukliberty — on 5th February, 2011 at 12:05 pm  
  15. ukliberty — on 5th February, 2011 at 12:21 pm  

    Sorry to triple post, but this is one of my pet hates (others include ‘supermarket trolley bad manners’ and ‘people blocking doorways’).

    At March 2009, the arrest rate – the number of arrests out of people screened – for this supposedly targeted scheme was worse than the ‘random’ stops and searches under s44 TACT in London.

    (It cost £1.2bn to set up – I don’t recall the running costs – or 50,000 new police officers if we’re using Daily Mail units. )

    I was reliably informed that a similar scheme, US-VISIT, performed just as admirably.

    So we give up our privacy and our money for what?

    (scare quotes around ‘random’ because they aren’t truly random)

  16. douglas clark — on 5th February, 2011 at 12:56 pm  

    Rumbold,

    Frankly you’ve got more to worry about with the UK government than you do with the EU over this.

    Please read the insouciant reply that a certain Mr Dodds gave to the committee. This is complete utter overkill, and I use the word advisedly. It would almost be enough to make someone a libertarian!

    http://ukliberty.wordpress.com/2008/08/07/sailing-and-e-borders/

  17. Rumbold — on 6th February, 2011 at 10:00 am  

    ukliberty:

    I didn’t know it covers all forms of transport- that is even worse (but makes sense I suppose).

    Douglas:

    The problem I have with the EU is that it just adds another layer of laws and taxes.

  18. Chris — on 6th February, 2011 at 11:03 am  

    This is an offensive piece of Daily Mail xenophobia. Of all the police forces in the EU the one I trust least, on the basis of a lifetime of experience, is the British one. British police are invariably nasty aggressive and dishonest and their proud of it. The polite and helpful attitude of continental police officers always comes as a bit of a shock. And my experience is that the further east you get the better they are..

  19. ukliberty — on 7th February, 2011 at 12:11 pm  

    I think the underlying point is about mitigation of risk.

    Consider a spectrum where at one extreme we collect no data at all and at the other we record everything and allow everyone access.

    Somewhere in between are the Data Protection Principles, which are approximately about where we should be; we should only store that which is necessary for a particular purpose and no more, only allow access to those it is necessary to allow access and no-one else, and only store the data for as long as necessary and no more. The data collected, the period of retention and the people allowed access must all be justified.

    Sadly and unfortunately recent UK government(s) and parts of the EU government have colluded in going towards the extreme of collecting everything – blanket and indefinite retention of data – allowing everyone access, and not properly justifying it.

    Add to the fact that there is plenty of precedent to suggest data will continue to be lost and abused – no need to cry xenophobia in relation to concerns about people in corrupt countries having access to our data.

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