Classic Function Creep As EU Police May Gain Access To Asylum Seekers Fingerprint Database

from the exceptionally-common-situations dept

As Techdirt readers well know, one of the problems with measures brought in for “exceptional situations” — be it fighting terrorism or tackling child pornography — is that once in place, they have a habit of being applied more generally. A case in point is the blocking of Newzbin2 by BT in the UK. That was possible because BT had already installed its “Cleanfeed” system to block child pornography: once in place, this “specialized” censorship system could easily be deployed to block quite different sites.

Another, more recent, case from the EU involves Eurodac, a database with fingerprint information provided by asylum seekers there. Here’s the original justification for storing them:

The database was originally established in 2000 so EU nations could check whether an asylum seeker had previously applied for asylum in another European country or was receiving social benefits from another EU country. According to EU law, asylum seekers can apply for asylum only in the EU nation where they first entered the bloc.

But the politicians have noticed that this biometric data could be handy in quite different circumstances:

such a rich source of existing data has recently sparked the interest of other parties. If the EU Commission’s requests are followed, Eurodac fingerprint data will be accessible to police officers during investigations. The commission’s proposal envisions national law enforcement agencies and Europe’s supranational criminal police commission, Interpol, being able to access the database.

Of course, allowing the police to check people’s fingerprints in this way would have serious implications for privacy. Indeed, Peter Hustinx, head of the European Data Protection Supervisor, has already weighed in on the subject:

“Just because data is being collected doesn’t mean that it should be used for another purpose, especially since that can have a hugely negative effect on the lives of individuals,” said Peter Hustinx, head of the European Data Protection Supervisor.

And that really is the nub of the issue: people who agree to provide highly-personal data for one purpose, may then find it being used for another, without being asked. And if the European Commission gets its way, even more data will be shared:

“The Commission would generally like to widen its collection of data and make available any information regarding criminal prosecutions,” [Green Party MEP] Keller said. “One example is the so-called ‘Smart Borders’ package, which actually wasn’t proposed this round but has been in the pipeline for a long time. The idea there is that in the future anyone from non-EU countries that would like to travel into the EU will be recorded electronically, which also includes fingerprints.”

As more and more biometric data is collected around the world, this kind of function creep is likely to become increasingly common.

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Comments on “Classic Function Creep As EU Police May Gain Access To Asylum Seekers Fingerprint Database”

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out_of_the_blue says:

I'm unable to see cause for concern here.

“Of course, allowing the police to check people’s fingerprints in this way would have serious implications for privacy.” — What implications? Are you worried someone will be indentified? And… what? Connected with a crime? … Disallowed from asylum in a second country? Seems like an arbitrary rule, but what’s the privacy implications for those who aren’t seeking to impose on the EU? — The blockquote only repeats vagueness: “can have a hugely negative effect”. — Such as? Can you give me one concrete worry that stems from the facts you’ve laid out?

And yet you probably aren’t worried about Google tracking everyone all the time! Offline now too, spying on purchases for targeted ads. — This is the typical disproportionate fears that Techdirt excels in. We’re supposed to worry about foreigners maybe having their fingerprints exposed to police (I guess), but the actual constant spying/tracking/targeting by Google and Facebook get almost no mention by staff re-writers.

Tex Arcana (profile) says:

Re: I'm unable to see cause for concern here.

If you can’t see the potential for abuse here, then you shouldn’t be sitting at a computer in the comfort of your own home trolling EVERY FUCKING ARTICLE Techdirt writes with your anti-freedom anti-free speech drivel; instead, you should be transported back about 40-50 years to the old Soviet Union, stand in lines for milk and toilet paper, and get tossed into a Siberian Gulag for the previously mentioned anti-free-speech drivel you like to shovel here.

I’m thinking you’re a so-called “law enforcement” fascist who’s trying to beat us all into goosestepping submission.

Anonymous Cowshit (profile) says:

Classic Function Creep As EU Police May Gain Access To Asylum Seekers Fingerprint Database

No longer in the UK, but used to be, so have some reason to believe that this would break EU law.

As far as I know, EU Data Protection legislation specifically makes it an offence to obtain data for one purpose and then to subsequently use it for another unrelated purpose without obtaining explicit permission from each data subject.

Are governments above the law!? And even if they are legally permitted to be, is “do as I say, not as I do” government good for society?

Anonymous Numbskull (profile) says:

Re: Classic Function Creep As EU Police May Gain Access To Asylum Seekers Fingerprint Database

Also, I noticed that it says they’ll be collecting data on all non-EU citizens that enter the EU. Basically, they’ll be collecting fingerprints from everyone that isn’t from the EU. Meaning Americans, Canadians, Australians and so on. Which means they’ll have highly personal information on basically every tourist that wants a vacation in Italy or France or whatever. I was going to have more of an argument in this and the next few sentences but I ran out of brain. I don’t know how to explain how unnecessary keeping fingerprints (and more) of every tourist that comes into your general region is. What is even the purpose of doing this?

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