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High-Level Group on law enforcement information-gathering and exchange: second report released
24.11.16
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Two months after it took place, the Commission has released the minutes of the second meeting of the 'High-Level Group on Information Systems and Interoperability', which is tasked with "developing a joint strategy" to improve "data management" for internal security and the "protection" of external borders by mid-2017. The aim is to establish what information is currently unavailable to law enforcement officials across the EU and then work out how to make it accessible. The potential implications for privacy and data protection are significant.

See: European Commission, High-level expert group on information systems and interoperability - Second meeting - 20 September 2016
- Report
(pdf)

The report from the meeting, which took place on 20 September in Brussels, contains an overview of discussions on three main topics: existing systems; the use of a "single search interface" or SSI; and the European Travel Information and Authorisation System (ETIAS) which was recently proposed by the European Commission (pdf).

The discussion on existing systems focused on a study undertaken by the European Agency for Large-Scale IT Systems (eu-LISA, also a member of the High-Level Expert Group), "looking in particular at the feeding of systems, the consultation of systems, and data quality."

The agency found, amongst other things, that (emphasis added):

"System usage is potentially a major issue, as is the feeding of data into systems. For example, 80 % of SIS is fed by just three Member States. There is also a lack of appropriate access to the system: Eurodac is open for law enforcement access but use is low, or law enforcement agencies do not have the technical access. eu-LISA had also found that only 50 % of Schengen visas are checked at borders: this is not a technical issue but an end-user issue."

Furthermore:

"eu-LISA argued that usage can be increased through a standard architecture and input interface, and standardised devices, including mobile devices. A harmonised end-user interface could result from working with Frontex and EASO officers on the ground."

The Commission subsequently offered a report on the work of the sub-group on existing systems. There are in fact three sub-groups - on existing systems, new systems and interoperability - although none of them are listed on the official webpage of the group. Statewatch recently published the minutes of the September meeting of the sub-group on new systems, which focused on ETIAS.

The next issue on the agenda was a single search interface (SSI):

"The Commission introduced the discussion of the single-search interface as a tool to query several information systems simultaneously, and to produce combined results on one single screen for border guards or police officers, with full respect of their access rights, in line with the respective purposes.

Responses by Member States to a questionnaire showed that they all generally used some kind of SSI for a variety of end-users. Use of mobile and hand-held devices is increasing."

Responses from Member States show that numerous SSIs are already in use across the EU, and that there was agreement they should be put into use more widely, for "feeding" data as well as accessing that already stored.

The discussion on ETIAS, meanwhile, was no doubt intended to inform the Commission's proposal. Many of the questions raised - for example, such as applications for travel authorisation from people who arrive without notice at land borders - are likely to recur as the proposal is discussed over the coming months.

The group will meet again on 29 November. See: High-level expert group on information systems and interoperability - Third meeting - 29 November 2016 (pdf)

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