The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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This perspective was reiterated in May 2002, this time by the Group of Eight justice and interior ministers, requesting that countries ensure data protection legislation, as implemented, takes into account public safety and other social values, in particular by allowing retention and preservation of data important for network security requirements or law enforcement investigations or prosecutions, and particularly with respect to the internet and other emerging technologies.

Further discussion regarding the reduction of the protections of privacy afforded by data protection law will likely arise in September when the European Commission continues discussion of the implementation of the 1995 directive (95/46/EC). Individuals and citizens are at the same time losing subject access rights under data protection and freedom of information regimes. In the interests of critical infrastructure protection, access to information is being reduced, limiting government accountability. Meanwhile, in order to protect sensitive investigative and intelligence data, subject access requests are restricted as some data banks are being exempted from both data protection and freedom of information laws.

A number of policies were introduced to enable and promote increased data sharing, both within and across government agencies, and with the private sector. The sharing of data between agencies introduces purpose-creep where data collected for one purpose is used for another, but also introduces highly sensitive data to arms of government that can not be expected to protect the data adequately.

There are significant shifts in the policies and practices in the United States of America with changes to the attorney general guidelines regulating the actions and capabilities of the department of justice and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, increased sharing of information between the FBI and the Central Intelligence Agency supported by the USA-PATRIOT Act, and proposed policies to increase sharing with local law enforcement agencies. The US is not alone in introducing such policies. The United Kingdom is proposing “joined-up government” within its consultation paper on modernizing government and public services to create “data-sharing gateways” and provide “seamless” services. It also tried unsuccessfully to allow any government agency to gain access to the traffic data of individuals under the regulation of investigatory powers act, including local councils and parishes.

The increased flow of data is also coming from the private sector. The UK and Canada proposed laws to grant law enforcement agencies access to travellers’ information. The UK home office has recommended that it gain access to information from every passenger before international flights. The Canadian policy proposes to grant both the federal law enforcement and the intelligence agencies access to air passenger information, regardless of domestic or international travel, and to match this data with other personal information, for a wide number of purposes and investigations, not limited only to terrorism.

Similarly, the European Union is considering granting Europol access to the Schengen Information System, including privileges to change the information held on travellers. Germany has recommended to the EU the creation of a database of “known trouble-makers,” to be used “for criminal prosecution purposes and in order to avert dangers constitute a proper and necessary tool in the fight against international terrorism. However, in view of the fact that members and supporters of terrorist groups are known to roam across Europe, the measure would be much more effective if it were applied by all EU Member States.”

Data sharing between financial institutions and with government agencies has also increased. New money laundering agreements and regulations have been introduced to increase surveillance of transactions, and even expanded to include hedge funds and money transfer firms. Donations to charities are receiving further scrutiny as both the charities and the donors are monitored to investigate links with terrorist groups. Some financial institutions are also sharing personal information between themselves in order to minimize risk of clients being terrorists, or “undesirables.”

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