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Asylum seeker fingerprint database has security flaws, says watchdog

Some searches 'carried out improperly'

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The European database of asylum seekers' fingerprints has security weaknesses, according to (pdf) Europe's privacy watchdog the European Data Protection Supervisor (EDPS).

Eurodac is a Europe-wide fingerprint database of applicants for asylum and illegal immigrants. The EDPS conducted a detailed security audit of the system to ensure that people's data was being properly treated. That audit found problems, the EDPS said.

"Some parts of the systems and the organizational security present some weaknesses which will have to be addressed in order for Eurodac to fully comply with best practices and the implementation of best available techniques."

The full report has not been released, but the EDPS did publish a summary of its findings. Many of them were positive, it said.

"The security measures initially implemented with respect to the Eurodac system and the way they have been maintained during these first four years of activity have provided a fair level of protection to date," it said.

"The EDPS will review the proper implementation of the follow-up measures which will be elaborated on the basis of the present report."

The Eurodac system is designed to help identify if an asylum seeker or illegal immigrant has already registered an application for asylum with an EU member state by comparing fingerprint records across Europe.

The system was inspected earlier this year by a supervision co-ordination group consisting of national data protection authorities and the EDPS. It found that some searches against fingerprint records had been carried out improperly.

"Eurodac authorities should develop written and formal procedures to ensure that access to Eurodac data is limited to the purposes of the Eurodac Regulation," said July's report. "In particular, request of CAT3 searches should be documented in such a way that they are used in strict compliance with the Eurodac Regulation."

Category 3 searches are "optional searches for third country nationals apprehended when illegally staying on the territory", according to a European Commission working paper.

This month's new security audit was separate to that and the EDPS said that it will ensure its recommendations are followed.

"The EDPS will review the proper implementation of the follow-up measures which will be elaborated on the basis of the present report," it said.

Copyright © 2007, OUT-LAW.com

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

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