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Cross-border flows of police data channelled into EU law

The European Commission today set out plans for a new framework to protect personal data while allowing for a more effective exchange of information between national law enforcement agencies.04 Oct 2005

Advertisement: The Invisible Threat Seminar. London, 20th October 2005. The problems of identity theft in your organisation.The Commission hopes this will complement last month’s proposal on the retention of data by communication providers, making it easier for Member States to cooperate in the international fight against organised crime and terrorism.

Increased cooperation and information exchange have been on the European agenda since 9/11 and have been given added impetus by the Madrid and London bombings.

“Such cooperation necessarily implies the exchange of personal data, indeed such exchange often proves vital in criminal investigations,” said Vice President Frattini, Commissioner responsible for freedom, security and justice. He also acknowledged the need to respect "fundamental principles regarding data quality and the legitimacy of data processing."

Advert: Phishing conference, London, 27th October 2005Current rules for the processing of personal data come from the 1995 Data Protection Directive. But the Directive does not apply to the processing of personal data in the course of activities provided for within the framework of police and judicial cooperation in criminal matters.

Nor does it apply to the processing of personal data in the course of an activity which falls outside the scope of Community law, including operations concerning public security, defence, State security (including the economic well-being of the State when the processing operation relates to State security matters) and the activities of the State in areas of criminal law.

The new proposals, which will take the form of a Council Framework Decision, are intended to cover these elements.

The Commission says the draft decision (which was not available at the time of writing) includes strict rules on confidentiality and security of processing, judicial remedies, liability and also sanctions.

In particular it sets out a mechanism to ensure that personal data are only transferred to those third countries and international bodies that ensure an adequate level of data protections. According to the Commission, derogations from this principle will only be possible in very exceptional cases, notably in order to prevent imminent serious danger threatening public security or specific persons.

It also calls for strong, efficient but also cooperative supervisory authorities, with an EU-level working party giving advice to the Commission and the Member States.

The proposal will be presented at the Justice and Home Affairs Ministers meeting next week.

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