Wojciech Wiewiórowski is a 51-year outdated Polish nationwide whose job because the EU’s knowledge safety supervisor (EDPS) is to make sure that European establishments and our bodies respect peoples’ proper to privateness and data-protection. But these rights are frequently denied to hundreds of individuals in search of asylum within the EU, he warns.
Wiewiórowski, who heads the impartial, Brussels-based, EDPS, says the EU has “two excessive approaches,” in terms of the gathering of and processing of individuals’s knowledge crossing a border of the European Union.
The primary is value-based and one the place everyone seems to be handled pretty no matter origin. The second is safety focussed and one the place folks have to surrender all their knowledge, regardless of privateness rights. “The second method shouldn’t be convincing for us,” he says.
Wiewiórowski warns that individuals who arrive on the borders in search of worldwide safety are pressured into divulging all their private knowledge with a purpose to acquire entry to the EU. That knowledge is fed into massive EU databases, a few of which have been set as much as crack down on criminals.
“We’re forgetting for which causes we have been amassing the information,” he says. This poses a slew of data-protection issues, spanning ideas like “function limitation” and “knowledge minimisation.” Each are spelled out within the EU’s basic knowledge safety regulation (GDPR), in addition to its directive on regulation enforcement.
It means authorities are solely supposed to gather knowledge for particular functions. However Wiewiórowski says there’s a push to gather every part doable. That is fed right into a maze of EU and nationwide safety databases that then ‘speak’ to at least one one other. “I really feel slightly bit puzzled,” he acknowledges.
The European system relies on humane values, he says. However on the identical time individuals are being denied their rights. Wiewiórowski says he partly understands the method by EU states, the border authorities, and Frontex in terms of migration. However he’s additionally certain by rights enshrined within the EU treaties.
Earlier this yr he ordered Europol to erase knowledge on folks with no established hyperlink to a felony exercise. The Hague-based company had hoovered up 4 petabytes of delicate knowledge, together with from asylum seekers with no felony information.
And in October, his employees carried out an audit of Frontex’s processing of non-public knowledge of migrants at their headquarters in Warsaw. The probe is taking a look at how Frontex and Europol are sharing knowledge by way of the Processing of Private Information for Danger Evaluation, often known as PeDRA.
Fabrice Leggeri, when he was nonetheless government director at Frontex, had proposed increasing PeDRA to permit boarder guards to gather delicate knowledge on asylum seekers, together with their sexual orientation.
Wiewiórowski’s activity and that of nationwide data-protection authorities is simply more likely to get harder as tech-based options to safety points push privateness rights on the again burner. Through the years, the EU has dramatically elevated its safety budgets to shore up its exterior borders.
The EU’s Inside Safety Fund shot up by 90 % to €1.9bn, when in comparison with the EU’s earlier seven-year funds cycle. The fund is meant to strengthen police powers, together with the change of knowledge. It helped finance to the tune of some €15m the enlargement of Greece’s automated border surveillance system, which goals to trace down migrants making an attempt to enter by way of Turkey. It’s operated by the Hellenic Police.
Greek authorities describe it as an all-seeing system that may present real-time and correct data. Now Athens is testing EU-funded drones with synthetic intelligence to trace folks in search of refuge.
One other large funds increase went to the EU’s Built-in Border Administration Fund, which elevated to €7.3bn. Certainly one of its objectives is to detect irregular migration crossings, together with by organising massive scale IT methods for border administration.
Behind these figures lies a wider malaise over migration, coupled with EU-wide coverage initiatives tying asylum to geo-political tensions. Not one of the cash, for instance, will go in the direction of serving to search and rescues within the Mediterranean Sea.
As an alternative, the clampdown on the borders in locations like Greece, Hungary, Lithuania, Latvia, Poland and elsewhere is most visibly manifested by partitions and fences geared toward retaining folks out. Border guards, as an illustration in Latvia, used pressure to push folks again into Belarus final yr, in keeping with Amnesty Worldwide.
The main focus could also be on these bodily boundaries. However whereas tech surveillance methods, synthetic intelligence applied sciences, and safety databases utilized by EU and nationwide authorities to gauge an individual’s intent, background, and origin could also be much less seen, they’re very a lot half and parcel of ‘Fortress Europe’.
“Elementary rights are positively proper now underneath stress,” Wiewiórowski warns.