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Police will share data across Europe

Against privacy chief's advice

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European police forces will have easier access to each others' information on criminals and suspects after ministers agreed a new data swap system. But Europe's data protection chief told OUT-LAW that his concerns over the system had been sidelined.

Two years ago some European countries signed a deal called the Prüm Treaty, which enabled police forces to compare and swap data more easily. The EU has now adopted that as its own law, with minor alterations, giving countries three years in which to rewrite domestic laws in compliance with the agreement.

The Council of Ministers agreed the new deal at a meeting of justice and home office ministers this week. It will open up police databases, including DNA databases, to queries from all other EU nations.

The UK had previously resisted joining the Prüm Treaty, but was a signatory to the new EU deal. "The UK is happy to sign up to this because we think it will help law enforcement," said a Home Office spokeswoman.

The deal has been agreed against the advice of the European Data Protection Supervisor (EDPS), whose role is to advise Europe's governing bodies on privacy and data protection issues.

"It seems that council has not sufficiently taken my remarks into account," Peter Hustinx, the EDPS, told OUT-LAW.COM. "There will for instance be a lot of variation in the level of data protection afforded by different member states as the decision does not harmonise it, but relies very much on national law.

"I also read that the council has failed to agree on a framework decision that provides a high level of data protection for law enforcement purposes throughout Europe. This is particularly worrying as that decision should be considered as the ground on which the specific data protection provisions of the Prüm Treaty rely, both in terms of substance and for minimum harmonisation of national law," said Hustinx.

The agreement of ministers from all 27 member states paves the way for the deal to be written into the laws of all those countries.

"It will be published in the Official Journal of the EU and following that there will be three years for member states to adopt national legislation in accordance with decision," said a spokesman for the European Council.

"Member states have to adopt legislation on the basis of the decision," he said. "They can copy and paste it, it is self-explaining, not like a Directive, which contains only objectives. This agreement contains a huge amount of legislation concerning DNA data and data protection rules, it is self explanatory."

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