Privacy czar: Civil rights at stake in asylum database proposal

  

European Commission proposals that would give the police access to a new EU-wide fingerprint database for asylum seekers - Eurodac - is a "serious intrusion" into the rights of a vulnerable group, the European Data Protection Supervisor (EDPS) says.

The EDPS on Wednesday said that under Commission proposals, law enforcement authorities would have access to Eurodac data.

While the EDPS understands that the availability of a database with fingerprints could be a useful additional tool in combating crime, EDPS views the Commission's amendment "a serious intrusion into the rights of a vulnerable group of people in need of protection."

The EDPS said the access might not be really necessary.

EDPS is an independent supervisory authority devoted to protecting personal data and promoting good practice in the EU institutions.

"Just because the data has already been collected, it should not be used for another purpose which may have a far-reaching negative impact on the lives of individuals," said EDPS supervisor Peter Hustinx.

"To intrude upon the privacy of individuals and risk stigmatising them requires strong justification and the Commission has simply not provided sufficient reason why asylum seekers should be singled out for such treatment," Hustinx added.

The EDPS points out that a number of legal instruments already exist which allow one member state to consult fingerprints and other law enforcement data held by another member state.

So far, the Commission has not provided evidence that these instruments are insufficient, or demonstrated any other substantive reason why accessing data on asylum seekers is necessary, according to EDPS.

The data protection supervisory authority urges the Commission to provide solid evidence and reliable statistics for the need to access Eurodac data.

"If such a need is supported by evidence, then the EDPS advocates that any access be subject to strict, appropriate safeguards," EDPS said in a statement.

The EDPS recommends among other things that a request for access for law enforcement purposes should be verified by an independent authority or, preferably, submitted for prior judicial authorisation.

It also recommends a clear outline of the need for direct access by Europol and that the same strict safeguards apply for relevant national authorities.

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