EU imposes new rules on police who collect and use citizens’ personal data

As the UK’s first identity cards for foreign nationals were issued last week, the EU Council has unveiled plans to further strengthen the protection of personal data in the EU by adopting a framework that regulates the collection and use of such data by police and judiciary in the course of their activities.

Dec 4, 2008
By Paul Jacques

As the UK’s first identity cards for foreign nationals were issued last week, the EU Council has unveiled plans to further strengthen the protection of personal data in the EU by adopting a framework that regulates the collection and use of such data by police and judiciary in the course of their activities.

Vice-President Jacques Barrot, EU commissioner responsible for justice, freedom and security, said: “We need to ensure that our police forces and judges get the necessary and relevant information to do their job properly. However, this should be done in a manner which respects our citizens’ right to protection of their personal data.

“We observe a growing need for police and judiciary to obtain information from other countries than their own in order to better tackle cross-border crime. So Europe needed an instrument containing safeguards on how to protect personal data exchanged between law enforcement authorities in the EU.”

Information on crimes is increasingly being shared across European borders. The EU Council’s decision responds to this phenomenon by laying a common foundation for such information exchanges from the perspective of data protection.

Member states will need to ensure that cross-border exchange of personal data for their police and judiciary takes place in a manner that sufficiently guarantees the protection of those data. Aiming for this high level of security will go hand in hand with full respect for human rights.

The new instrument is applicable to cross-border exchanges of personal data within the framework of police and judicial cooperation. It regulates issues such as the right to be informed, right of access to personal data held by law enforcement authorities, right of compensation in case of damage as a result of unlawful processing of personal data and limitations on the use of sensitive data. Last but not least, in a world where crime does not stop at the EU external borders, the instrument also contains rules applicable to onward transfers of personal data to third countries. Member states will have to implement the instrument within two years from adoption.

Vice-President Jacques Barrot added: “In the context of the terrible events in Mumbai, it is even more important for Europe to show that we can act together in an area which lies so close to the heart and interest of our citizens.”

The UK’s new ID cards will contain a facial image and fingerprints to securely lock foreign nationals to one identity and help businesses crack down on illegal working. Stringent new rules to bring in workers to the UK through Tiers two and five of the points system also began last week.

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