DNA goes travelling

Thanks to Genewatch for sending over this uncorrected evidence from the Home Affairs Committee session on EU level issues:

Q253 Bob Russell: Professor Peers, what difference will the principle of availability make to the data the UK can request and give out? Will the principle make it harder to protect sensitive data?

Professor Peers: I think the answer depends on the way in which the principle of availability is implemented. If it is implemented according to the Commission’s proposal it would apply to additional categories of types of data but if it is implemented, as I suspect it will be, in accordance with the Treaty of Prüm being applied to all Member States – but that seems already to have been agreed and in fact there are legislative proposals on the table this week already for the Article 36 committee of Council – then we will be starting just with the DNA, fingerprints and vehicle registration information.

That really is a profound change because then you have automatic and uncontrolled access by the police forces of each Member State to the databases of each other Member State as regards, at least, DNA, fingerprint and vehicle access information. The idea is to extend that to other categories like civil registry information as well. You have, in a sense, a fishing expedition, of police forces being able to take an entire database of information in a way which they cannot now because they are essentially currently restricted to sending specific requests in specific cases to other countries.

You would certainly hope that every police force in the European Union would restrict itself to only searching for very important information where it has legitimate reasons to search. But I suspect there is a risk that in some cases some uncontrolled fishing expeditions will take place. That is the risk from the data protection point of view. Of course there will probably be some advantages from a law enforcement point of view on the other hand.

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