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EU police biometric databases will grow with new data exchange policy, says rights group

EU police biometric databases will grow with new data exchange policy, says rights group

The European Union’s new law on exchanging data between national law enforcement authorities is set to increase the amount of data being shared with Europol, including biometric data, according to UK monitoring group Statewatch.

The new law, called Directive (EU) 2023/977 entered force in June and is meant to eliminate inconsistencies and harmonize existing regulations. This includes the Prüm regulation that allows police forces to share records, including face biometrics, to enable cross-country searches of criminals and suspects.

The Directive also replaces provisions on cross-border data exchange of two legal frameworks, the Schengen Implementation Agreement (SIA) and the Swedish Framework Decision. The two frameworks were used by law enforcement agencies to cross-check their data with DNA or fingerprint biometric databases of another member state.

As a result of the new changes, “Europol’s data warehouse will grow significantly” says Statewatch: “Europol will be able to receive a copy of all information exchanged when it concerns crimes in its area of responsibility.”

Member states can still assess whether to share data with the agency on a case-by-case basis. EU member states have until 12 December 2024 to incorporate the Directive into national law.

The non-profit group is focused on the development of the EU state and civil liberties. In September 2022, Statewatch and the European Digital Rights (EDRi) network issued a paper criticizing the Prüm II legislation, arguing that it will amplify the risks of state overreach and biometric mass surveillance.

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