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The number of computers with access to the Schengen Information System has doubled to 500,000 thanks to the extension of the EU.

SIS is a shared information system used by police and border guards across Europe. Although the UK and Ireland declined to sign up fully, they still use the system.

The figure of 500,000 computers came from documents seen by the Observer. France is proposing to take over the running of the database, which will shortly be upgraded to Schengen II.

The paper quotes Statewatch director Tony Bunyan: "It is well known that the greater the points of access, the greater the number of people who have access and the greater the chance that data will be misplaced, lost or illegally accessed. The idea that mass databases can be totally secure and that privacy can be guaranteed is a fallacy."

Bunyan said Statewatch was aware of a case in Belgium where an official with access to the database offered information to a criminal gang.

Schengen files include names, addresses, distinguishing marks and possible aliases for individuals as well as documents on missing firearms, vehicles and missing documents. ®

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