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MEPs slate EU's terror assault on our data rights

As EU charter proclaims respect for data rights

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The European Parliament has condemned the EU's fondness for collecting personal information, mining and generating profiles in a resolution slamming the EU and national governments' approach to fighting terrorism.

The resolution was adopted yesterday, with 359 MEPs voting for, 293 against. Another 38 abstained.

The resolution, first proposed at the close of last month, said: "Governments and EU institutions have often responded to terrorist attacks by adopting laws that have not been sufficiently discussed and are sometimes in violation of basic human rights such as the right to privacy or to a fair trial."

MEPs called on the commission and national governments to re-evaluate their response, looking at their effectiveness, "and the positive and negative effects of these laws, both in terms of security and in terms of citizen's rights".

They picked out Commissioner Frattini's recent proposals on passenger name recognition (PNR), saying they will be assessed by the parliament on "evidence based argumentation". The commission's recent proposals have led some to describe the EU as, potentially, the most surveilled place in the world.

PNR has also been a major sticking point between (some in) the EU and the US thanks to Washington's insistence that every non-citizen air passenger to the US be preceded by the sort of information that only the UK's HMRC would be comfortable chucking out to all and sundry.

The resolution specifically condemned the use of PNR and other databases for data mining to build-up profiles, with a reminder it is "not allowed at European level".

"MEPs say that profiling (the use of racial, ethnic, or similar characteristics in determining whether a person is considered likely to commit a particular type of crime) should be avoided altogether and raised concerns in this regard on Mr Frattini's new proposal for an EU PNR system," the resolution read.

More broadly, the MEPs called for democratic and parliamentary scrutiny of intelligence services, and demanded the resettlement of Guantanamo prisoners who cannot return to their original countries.

They also proposed "measures to support democracy movements in Islamic countries, including the creation of more student exchanges and funding mass media stations which spread democratic ideas". Is it our imagination, or is that last bit slightly similar to what the neo-cons were advocating before they lost their shirts in Iraq?

The MEP's wide-ranging attack on the EU's approach to fighting terrorism came on the same day the parliament also backed the EU's Charter of Fundamental Rights, Article 8 of which concerns the protection of personal data. It states:

1. Everyone has the right to the protection of personal data concerning him or her.

2. Such data must be processed fairly for specified purposes and on the basis of the consent of the person concerned or some other legitimate basis laid down by law. Everyone has the right of access to data which has been collected concerning him or her, and the right to have it rectified.

3. Compliance with these rules shall be subject to control by an independent authority.

Joined-up government... ®

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