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More automatic forensic biometric data sharing proposed for privacy-focused Europe

More automatic forensic biometric data sharing proposed for privacy-focused Europe

In another example of how sentiment about privacy is complex if not chaotic at the moment, European politicians are considering further increasing its expansion of the continent’s biometric data-sharing practices.

This is the same continent mulling the proposed Artificial Intelligence Act, which includes an outright ban on police using facial recognition systems in public places.

The Presidency of the Council of the European Union, which along with the European Parliament forms Europe’s legislature, has endorsed and expanded upon proposed EU-wide (including the United Kingdom) intelligence upgrades, according to reporting by the privacy advocacy group Statewatch.

Proponents of so-called Prüm II want to give EU governments the to authority to compare all DNA profiles among each nation’s law enforcement agencies.

The proposal published in December to increase automation in the biometrics-exchange system for law enforcement has been amended by the Presidency, currently held by France, to include driver’s license data, and adds definitions to the sections on DNA and facial recognition. It also instructs member states to compare their databases against those of other members and Europol, “at the initial connection to the router.”

The equivalent passage in the previous version read: “Member States may, via their national contact points, compare the DNA profiles of their unidentified DNA profiles with all DNA profiles from other national DNA analysis files for the investigation of criminal offences.” The Presidency amended the new version to use the word “shall” where “may” is found in this passage.

Recent updates to the proposal appear to also make human review of facial recognition matches optional.

There also would be streamlined procedures for sharing fingerprint biometric and vehicle registration databases. In fact, the legislation calls for a single data router shunting information around the EU and UK. No more contacting counterparts to request a look at data; just type in a search field.

An article on the idea by Wired states that Prüm II would allow Europol, Europe’s shared police agency, a “stronger role” in biometrics used in crime fighting while encouraging national law enforcement to coordinate more closely.

And perhaps more of a hot button for privacy advocates and biometric system skeptics, the legislation would allow police to automatically exchange facial recognition files with no human review.

Prüm II was first published by the European Commission a year ago this month. It has gained attention following the endorsement by the council president, currently held by a French national.

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