Prum Convention Goes International?

The Prum Convetion is designed to allow the transfer of personal information, fingerprints, DNA, and vehicle dataacross the EU. This exchange of data holds numerous concerns for privacy groups and the ultra liberal House of Lords, who have expressed concern about several parts of the Convention.

Despite this, and the fact that the Prum Convention has yet to start in the UK, the Goverment already appears to be looking to do more of the same and exchange similar data with the US, Australia, New Zealand and Canda.

As the exchange of EU passenger information with the US caused numerous legal hurdles, and was questioned by Information Comissioners around Europe, it is not apparent if the UK Goverment has even considered the legal ramifications (let alone the privacy issues) of sharing millions of fingerprints of people with the US. The UK ICO yet to comment on the latest possiblity of data exchange.

As 100,00s of people on the UK fingerprint and DNA database are innocent and have not been convicted or even charged any crime, the exchange of data with the US will cause a great concern. Due to the recent actions of the US, in particular with their use of “renditon” and “extraordinary rendition” the exchange of such data will cause concern not only for privacy and human rights groups but also those who have been arrested on peace demonstrations or the like, who  may fear they could be put on the dubious US “no fly list”, like similar people in the US, or possibly face rendition.

According to the Guardian “Senior British police officials are talking to the FBI about an international database to hunt for major criminals and terrorists. The US-initiated programme, “Server in the Sky”, would take cooperation between the police forces way beyond the current faxing of fingerprints across the Atlantic. Allies in the “war against terror” – the US, UK, Australia, Canada and New Zealand – have formed a working group, the International Information Consortium, to plan their strategy. Biometric measurements, irises or palm prints as well as fingerprints, and other personal information are likely to be exchanged across the network. One section will feature the world’s most wanted suspects. The database could hold details of millions of criminals and suspects.

The FBI is keen for the police forces of American allies to sign up to improve international security. The Home Office yesterday confirmed it was aware of Server in the Sky, as did the Metropolitan police.

This information was backed up by Austrialia’s spokeswoman for the Federal Home Affairs Minister who said that: “Australia has a strong interest in working with international partners to combat crime and terrorism. We are constantly reviewing our arrangements to ensure we have the tools to fight crime. As a member of the International Information Consortium, Australia supports ongoing information sharing between law enforcement agencies.

Equally the Royal Canadian Mounted Police are also in talks with the US to exchange information and Sgt. Deschênes of the RCMP said: “The RCMP is currently working with the FBI, through the International Information Consortium, on a concept that the FBI has proposed to share information on terrorist files called ‘Server in the Sky ”.

The Canadians are probably more skeptical than the Brits on this plan as one of their citizens was deported to Syria for torture by the FBI following information exchange from the RCMP with FBI.

The Canadian Privacy Comissions, Jennifer Stoddart stated “I am concerned at the speed at which it seems to be going ahead and I’m concerned with our relatively little experience with the use of biometric technology”

The stated aim of this exchange of data is purely for fighting terrorism (in the same way as RIPA was), and perhaps to assure people that the this is the case the FBI has included three catergories for suspects on the database.

  • Internationally recognised terrorists
  • Major Criminals and suspected terrorists
  • Those who are the subject of terrorist investigations or criminals with international links

The last catergory could clearly allow a very high volume of innocent people to be put on the database. Also, as the changes in the UK fingerprint and DNA laws show, once the system has been created both access and content will increase over time.

In fact the US are already stating that the database will include records of all wanted criminals in the US, 600, 000 in total.

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