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It won’t come as a surprise to anyone familiar with the work of data protection authorities (DPAs): they are chronically underfunded and lack the staff and resources to do their jobs properly. Figures released earlier this month show the scale of the problem for national authorities, and EU authorities have taken the unprecedented step of calling on the European Parliament not to approve the budget proposed for them for 2023 by the European Commission.
The Czech Presidency of the Council has inserted new provisions into the proposed AI Act that would make it possible to greatly limit the transparency obligations placed on law enforcement authorities using "artificial intelligence" technologies. A new "specific carve-out for sensitive operational data" has been added to a number of articles. If the provisions survive the negotiations, the question then becomes: what exactly counts as "sensitive operational data"? And does the carve-out concern just the data itself, or the algorithms and systems it feeds as well?
The Council Legal Service (CLS) is of the opinion that one of the legal bases used in the proposed Artificial Intelligence Act - an EU treaty provision governing police cooperation measures - "is not justified", and the Act can only rely on provisions relating to the internal market and data protection.
Along with a group of human rights organisations and academic experts, we have signed an open letter to an EU-funded research project, ITFlows, which is developing a tool to "predict migration flows" and "detect risks of tension related to migration". The letter calls on the consortium to "immediately halt the use of the EUMigraTool and stop pursuing the use of any and all technologies that can be used in securitisating migration, and criminalising movement and solidarity with people on the move."
Information released by the Home Office and Crown Prosecution Service in response to freedom of information requests gives some indication of the scale and scope of cooperation under the UK-Greece Joint Action Plan on migration and 'Project Invigor', "the UK’s organised immigration crime taskforce set up to target the criminal networks behind people smuggling impacting on the UK."
Three internal Council documents on the forthcoming multiannual policy cycle on European integrated border management: comments from the member states on the European Commission's policy document published in May, and an initial and amended set of draft Council conclusions on the forthcoming policy cycle.
In June this year the the Court of Justice ruled that the rules governing the EU's system for travel surveillance and passenger profiling, set out in the Passenger Name Record (PNR) Directive, must be "interpreted restrictively" to conform with fundamental rights standards. The ruling requires substantial changes to member state practices - but the Council, in time-honoured fashion, is looking at how to circumvent it, and to ensure the greatest possible freedom of manouevre for law enforcement authorities.
Europol has been admonished by the European Data Protection Supervisor for the second time this year, for failing to comply with a request from a Dutch political activist to access the data held on him by the policing agency. The European Data Protection Supervisor's investigation found a series of failings by the agency to comply with the law, at a time when its powers to gather and process data have been vastly increased by a recent legal reform.
An open letter signed by 60 organisations from Spain and beyond, including Statewatch, calls on the Spanish government to ensure that civil society groups and independent experts have a say in designing the recently-proposed Spanish Agency for the Supervision of Artificial Intelligence (AESIA). The letter calls for "a clear and a clear and defined civil society participation strategy in the processes and policy development related to Artificial Intelligence," in order to put "human rights and social justice at the centre."
The European Commission has confirmed that €23 million will be allocated in 2022 and €57 million in 2023 to provide equipment and services to Egyptian authorities for "search and rescue and border surveillance at land and sea borders".
The Council of the EU is set to authorise a fresh budget of €72 million for the EU's security and immigration mission in Niger, which is tasked with aiding "Nigerien security actors in the fight against terrorism and organised crime" and the development of "policies, techniques and procedures to effectively control and fight immigration."
The state agencies participating in the Africa-Frontex Intelligence Community (AFIC) have been named in a response to a European parliamentary question. Thirty African states are currently participating in the AFIC. The response also says that "Risk Analysis Cells", of which eight have been set up in African states with the assistance of Frontex, are "the backbone" of the AFIC.
Various sub-groups and action plans have emerged from the various 'migration dialogues' that have been set up over the last decade, such as the Khartoum Process, the Rabat Process and the Budapest Process. This includes cooperation on operational action. The 'dialogues' bring together EU member states along with other European, African, Central Asian and other states. A recent set of presentations given to a Council of the EU working group make no mention of democratic scrutiny or legitimacy.
The European Commission is preparing to award a new round of funding to build a system for cross-border searches of “police records”. A legal proposal currently under negotiation would require the establishment of a European Police Records Index System (EPRIS) involving every member and Schengen state and, later on, potentially the UK. The current funding is part of a long-standing attempt to lay the technical foundations for the system before the law is in place, as has happened with previous EU surveillance schemes.
Statewatch, along with 122 other human rights, civil society and community organisations, is calling on MPs to vote against the proposed 'Bill of Rights', introduced to replace the Human Rights Act and water down or replace the protections afforded to individuals by the Act. The 'Bill of Rights', more widely-known as the Rights Removal Bill, "is unnecessary, unevidenced, unworkable, and unwanted – and it is individuals who will bear the brunt of its harmful effects," says a new joint briefing, a copy of which has been sent to every MP.
A new position paper published today by the European Digital Rights (EDRi) network calls for MEPs to oppose plans to create an EU-wide police facial recognition system that may, in the future, also include the UK. The plans are part of the 'Prüm II' proposals that instrumentalise one of the fundamental principles of the EU – the free movement of people between states – to legitimise the need for even more policing.
28 organisations from France, Morocco, Tunisia and Belgium yesterday published a statement denouncing France's refusal of visas to citizens of Maghreb countries "as a sanction because the latter refuse to repatriate their undocumented nationals." The statement condemns the approach of the French authorities as "a collective, unfair punishment, indiscriminately targeting all Algerians, Moroccans or Tunisians."
Back in March, members of the House of Lords discussed the state-of-play of police and judicial cooperation between the UK and EU, and were informed by a government minister that such cooperation does not depend on maintaining adequate data protection standards. The text of the relevant UK-EU treaty, however, says otherwise.
On 29 June, member state ambassadors to the EU agreed to create an 'Ad hoc Working Party on defence industry'. This Working Party will report to the EU Foreign Affairs Council, providing advice on draft legislative acts and other legal acts on issues related to the European defence industrial and technological base (EDTIB) – that is, the military industry at large.
Plans hatched by Europol and Frontex to develop a “European System for Traveller Screening” that would require massive data processing and automated profiling have been condemned as ushering in “a future with even more surveillance” by German left MEP Cornelia Ernst, who told Statewatch that “the daily lives of millions of people” should not be shaped by “agencies that long ceased to be controllable by the public and the parliament.”
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