Commission floats proposals to support cross-border searches of relevant information systems
The European Commission has set out a new approach to managing data for security purposes with plans for a search portal, biometric matching service and common identity repository.
It has included the plans as part of the latest report from its High Level Expert Group on moves towards a Security Union, with an emphasis on the need for interoperability of central information systems for security, border and migration management in the EU.
It said the proposed approach should eliminate the blind spots in the data management architecture around Europe, with eu-LISA, the EU agency responsible for information system management, leading the work on interoperability.
The European search portal would make it possible to search member states’ systems simultaneously while complying with data protection safeguards, and possibly with more streamlined rules for access to the systems by law enforcement authorities.
A shared biometric matching service would enable searches across different information systems holding biometric data, possibly with hit/no-hit flags indicating the connection with related biometric data found in another system.
The planned common identity repository would be based on alphanumeric identity data, such as dates of birth and passport numbers, and detect whether a person is registered under multiple identities in different databases.
It all comes with the caveat that they should have full respect for data protection and the fundamental rights of citizens.
Commissioner for Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship Dimitris Avramopoulos (pictured) said: "The value of our security information is maximised when our systems talk to each other. The complex and fragmented systems we have today make us vulnerable. Actionable information is not always available for the law enforcement officials that need it.
“Today, we present a clear vision on how to act to correct this. To connect the dots and to eliminate blind spots to step up the security of our citizens across the EU."
The Commission will now submit the proposals to the European Parliament with the aim of developing a firm plan by the end of the year.
Over the past year, the Commission has put forward a number of proposals with the aim of closing the outstanding information gaps, including the establishment of new systems such as the EU Entry/Exist System and the European Travel Information and Authorisation System (ETIAS), as well as reinforcing existing ones such as the Schengen Information System, Eurodac and the European Criminal Records Information System (ECRIS).
Any involvement by the UK is open to question in the light of its intention to leave the EU: so far there have been no firm indications on whether the Government wants its digital services to be interoperable with those on the continent over the long term.
But the continued anxieties around security suggest it will not want to withdraw completely from European co-operation efforts, and the indication that it will put the EU General Data Protection Regulation into force next year provides a precedent for remaining with some elements of EU data frameworks.
Image from EC Audiovisual Service