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EU plans giant IT network for 'freedom, security and justice'

Will allow 'full exploitation of citizens synergies'

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The European Commission has laid itself open to accusatons of Orwellian doublespeak when describing its plans to run the IT systems behind a trio of security and border initiatives.

The Commission has put together a legislative package "to establish a Regulatory Agency responsible for the long-term operational management of the second-generation Schengen Information System (SIS II), Visa Information System (VIS) and EURODAC".

This massive undertaking "will gradually build up expertise with a view to becoming a centre of excellence for IT systems in the area of freedom, security and justice".

For anyone who doesn't know, "Schengen Information System (SIS) II will replace the existing Schengen Information System (SIS 1+) and will facilitate the exchange of information on persons and objects between national authorities responsible, inter alia, for border controls and other customs and police checks." SIS II will likely be extended to include biometric data.

The Visa Information System (VIS) will underpin a "common visa policy" and facilitate effective border control and will include biometric data, and EURODAC is an IT system for comparing the fingerprints of asylum seekers and illegal immigrants.

SIS II and VIS are being developed, and will initially be operated by the commission, while EuroDAC is already in operation under the aegis of the commission.

All three systems might be expected to spark concerns from even mildly wary civil liberties types, even in their standalone versions.

However, it has now occurred to Brussels that the current situation "does not allow the full exploitation of the synergies between these systems and results in higher costs, less efficiency and overlaps" and "it is not the Commission’s core task to operate large-scale IT systems in the area of freedom, security and justice".

The answer is to set up a Regulatory Agency, which it describes as an independent European body, and which will be responsible for keeping the systems up 24/7, as well as running security for the system and handling reportying and publishing statistics.

It will also be responsible for running pilot schemes - which presumably include ever deeper integration of these "IT systems in the area of freedom, security and justice".

The commission certainly envisions it potentially "preparing, developing and managing other large-scale IT systems in the area of freedom, security and justice". Subject to the appropriate legislation of course.

The commission envisages an initial outlay of €113m in startup costs between 2010 and 2013, with a staff of around 120. The EU will also look for somewhere nice to place these staff, and their systems.

Annual costs of connecting to sTESTA - the EU's private IP network - will be another $16.5m. This is all EU money though, so expect the final bill to be much bigger.

Whatever the system does to make EU citizens more secure, it seems bound to benefit a number of different constituencies. Some governments will love the ability to track people within the community. IT vendors will love the prospect of massive pan-European systems and their associated budgets. And hackers will love the prospect of a one-stop shop for Euro ID information.®

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