EU prepares law on police files

By EDRi · December 2, 2004

The European Commission is preparing a Framework Decision on ‘Access to information by law enforcement agencies’. Commission services have authored a Communication on enhancing such access, which was sent to the Council and the European Parliament in June 2004.

The issue is closely linked to discussions currently under way on the introduction of data protection rules for issues that are dealt with under the Third Pillar of EU Legislation, which is mainly about police and judicial co-operation. At present, this whole topical area is exempt from EU Data Protection legislation, including the EU Data Protection Directive 95/46.

In the classic view on data protection, access to information is seen as a complementary condition for the protection of data. This was reflected at an expert’s meeting in Brussels on 23 November 2004, where Gus Hosein of Privacy International and Andreas Dietl of EDRI were invited, along with a small number of speakers from other civil rights organisations.

The Commission sees a need for more transparency by law enforcement agencies as a consequence of the Dublin Declaration, which, in the aftermath of the Madrid bombings of 11 March 2004, aimed at enhancing the exchange of information between police forces and secret services, especially in, but not limited to, cases involving terrorism. If personal data is transferred between different agencies and cross-border, common rules must apply to the processing of the data, to data security, data protection and the individual’s right of access to the data. The Commission recognised traceability of the data as a key issue, while privacy advocates and representatives of Amnesty International added that individuals must have a right to remedy concerning the data stored about them. This should be an integral part of a judicial framework for law enforcement data, which is yet to be constructed.

The Commission announced that it will try to get more input from civil society by organising at least one bigger hearing next spring, before presenting draft legislation early in July 2005.

Towards enhancing access to information by law enforcement agencies. Communication from the Commission to the Council and the European Parliament (16.06.2004)

(Contribution by Andreas Dietl, EDRI EU Affairs Director)