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New Europol powers need new protection, says watchdog

Consistency is key

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Europe's police data protection policies must be more consistent before Europol's powers can be increased, the European Data Protection Supervisor (EDPS) has said (PDF). The European Parliament last week proposed increasing the police body's powers.

The European Parliament has proposed that Europol's legal basis be changed in order to give it more powers to fight radical Islamic terrorism, which it believes is the biggest threat to European security. Its mandate will change, according to the proposals, in a way that will affect how data is exchanged in relation to the European police body.

Supervisor Peter Hustinx said the changes will only work if rules governing exchanges are consistent and fair.

"We have to make sure that exchange with other EU bodies, such as OLAF (the European Anti Fraud Agency), will be based on a consistent level of data protection and good co-operation in supervision," said Hustinx.

"Europol will be more in line with other EU bodies. The main message is that this leads to greater consistency and better data protection, which are important conditions for the well functioning of Europol's information system."

The Parliament said: "The response adopted by the EU in the face of terrorism must be proportionate and properly targeted on the fight against terrorism, bearing in mind that, until proven otherwise, the most productive measures in the fight against new forms of terrorism are effective intelligence and police services."

The proposed changes will require a more consistent underlying legal framework for data protection in relation to police data sharing, said the EDPS.

It said that once more sharing is commonplace, those swapping information must make sure that information collected from commercial activities are accurate, that strict guarantees are given when databases are linked together, and that rules are agreed on in relation to a subject's right of access to the shared information.

The EDPS also said that if Europol is to be involved in pan-European data sharing then there must be a guarantee that its data protection officer is independent. That person is responsible for ensuring Europol processes data lawfully.

The EDPS itself will oversee any information transfer to Europol from European Commission institutions.

Copyright © 2007, OUT-LAW.com

OUT-LAW.COM is part of international law firm Pinsent Masons.

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