The Sunday Telegraph, which seems to be rather favoured by the Home Office when it comes to leaks and briefings and media spin, reports that:
"Blunkett plans EU criminal database
By Patrick Hennessy, Political Editor
A European Union criminal database to store DNA and fingerprint records from hundreds of thousands of suspects will be proposed by the Government this week."
Hundreds of thousands of suspects ? The UK National DNA database alone has over 2 million records and counting.
Is David Blunkett going to sign away more of our national sovereignty (just like he did with the Extradition Act) by handing over access to 2 million UK records to the rest of the EU, without reciprocal access to the same proportion of records from other EU countries ? Many of these do not have a national DNA database at all.
"David Blunkett, the Home Secretary, will present the plan as a potent weapon against terrorism and organised crime when he chairs a meeting of European Union home affairs ministers in Sheffield. He envisages a central database, probably controlled by Europol but accessible by national police forces."
Who made the decision to choose Sheffield as the venue for this meeting of the these European Union nomenklatura and their associated hordes of bureaucrats and media journalists ? Who is paying for the extra security that this event will call for ?
Could the fact that David Blunkett is the Member of Parliament for the Sheffield Brightside constituency have anything to do with this strange choice of venue ? Is this an example of what in the USA is called "pork barrel" politics ?
The Home Office and David Blunkett have an appalling record when it comes to implementing national police databases, as documented in the Bichard Inquiry report, which they seem to be diverting media attention away from, by pursuing the red herring of the Humberside Police Authority and Chief Constable.
A European wide database might make sense if it replaced existing databases, but this will probably be just Yet Another Database That David Blunkett Will Not Pay For From Central Funds.
There need to be democratic checks and balances on Europol or whatever agency ends up running this central database.
Will any of the other EU countries dare to use their veto to stand up for human rights and privacy, ?
This meeting of EU ministers should set up and provide the funding for an independent European Union wide oversight agency, to which any individual can appeal, to get errors or libels investigated and corrected and records expunged where necessary, both on the central EU database and on all the national databases where copies of such errors have been propagated , due to automatic "intelligence sharing".
Will they even bother to consider measures which:
- Forbid the retention of data on the central EU database which is inaccurate or out of date.
- Allow inviduals to have access to their own records, cheaply and easily, and securely e.g. via a website, so that they can check them for errors and libels. This does not have to compromise ongoing investigations.
- Forbid the retention of data on the central EU database which has been
deleted from national databases because of say, the UK Rehabilitation of Offenders Act etc. or a national court order etc.
- Conduct continuous audits to compare the accuracy and how up to date the central EU database is compared with the national ones which feed into it. This has been an ongoing scandal in the UK with the Police National Computer and the Criminal Records Bureau.
- Conduct regular Privacy and Security Audits to check on new developments and enhancements to the system e.g. there will no doubt be pressure to make access to this system available on mobile wireless technology devices, which can be easily compromised by terrorists or criminals holding policemen hostage, compared with fixed line access in secure buildings.
- Publish regular detailed statistical reports about the numbers of records held on this central EU database and the number of accesses by each police agency in each country. This will not compromise security, but it will be an indiction of who is snooping on whom, and if disproportionate racial profiling going on, and provide some sort of value for money check on the whole project.
- Make it a criminal offence, in each EU country, for the police or others to abuse the privacy regulations under which this central EU database operates. Relying on a mish mash of 25 different Data Protection laws, without criminal sanctions, is simply not acceptable.
- Forbid non-EU countries, specifically the United States of America and the Russian Federation, to have unrestricted access to this central EU database - they cannot be trusted with our data.
- Make data mining and trawling of the entire database or of large portions of it a criminal offence. Enquiries should only be for specific, targeted terrorist or serious organised criminal investigations where there are actual reasonable grounds for suspicion.
- Forbid any commercial access or sponsorship of such a central EU database.
- Forbid any attempts to slurp existing or future National ID Card Biometric databases to pre-populate this central EU criminal records database - the presumption of innocence should remain as a fundamental core value.
Given the Home Office's and David Blunkett's lack of understanding of the technical issues and practicalities relating to Information Technology, it will not be a big surprise if they waffle and hand wave on the specific details of any such EU database proposal.