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Details about biometric sharing with US too sensitive to share: EU

Details about biometric sharing with US too sensitive to share: EU

A UK nonprofit civil liberties organization claims it is being stonewalled by EU officials on information about biometric data-sharing between that coalition government and the United States.

Statewatch reportedly has been told by the European Commission that sharing information about the “enhanced border security partnership” outside of the governments involved cannot happen for security and diplomatic reasons.

As part of the partnership, nations (including the United Kingdom and Israel) must create direct connections between their biometric databases and the U.S.’ IDENT/HART biometric databases. Statewatch is a UK-registered charity whose legal name is The Libertarian Research and Education Trust.

The organization says it has asked for, among other things, all agendas and minutes of meetings of a Commission and U.S. working group on the partnership.

It also wants information on a proof-of-concept regarding potential data-sharing. Statewatch says it particularly wants to know the “authorities involved, the data to be transferred, the source of the data, and the legal basis for sharing data.”

For its part the U.S. Justice Department – which the organization apparently has not petitioned for data — has mostly acknowledged ongoing discussions on the matter.

All partners agree to share biometric and other data about their residents. The U.S.’ stated goal is to identify criminals, including those with terroristic intensions, and immigrants that have designs on the United States.

All of the partner nations participate in the internationally attractive U.S. Visa Waiver Program through which their citizens can stay in the United States for a maximum of 90 days without carrying a visa.

Both waiver and border security programs have become increasingly linked over time. Membership in the waiver program could become dependent on belonging to the border agreement. And the U.S., via its Homeland Security Department, has been progressively requesting a more data on allies’ citizens, according to multiple sources.

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