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EU data protection working party calls for a balanced response to terrorism
01 January 2002
The EU's Article 29 Data Protection Working Party has issued a strongly worded report on data retention and the gathering of information on individuals, it says:
"Measures against terrorism should not and need not reduce standards of protection of fundamental rights which characterise democratic societies"
The Opinion of the EU Working Party, adopted on 14 December, post 11 September measures being considered at the EU level and member state level "cover more areas that just the fight against terrorism":
"existing procedural measures legitimising the intrusion by public authorities into individuals' privacy are reinforced and new questionable measures are discussed or yet adopted. This concerns not only telephone tapping, but also other measures as the prior and generalised retention of telecommunication data by electronic communications services providers and operators, the adoption of measures enabling "real time" surveillance of citizens, the surrender of the dual criminality principle as a condition for the exchange of certain personal data concerning criminals, the sharing of personal data for different purposes as the fight against crime, immigration and Foreign Counterintelligence and the premature transfer of personal data to third countries. In particular such transfers can be especially dangerous if the recipient States do not offer sufficient data protection standards"
The Opinion that the long-term impact of new measures has take account of the fact that:
"terrorism is not a new phenomenon and cannot be qualified as a temporary phenomenon"
their reports over the past three years had taken account "of the serious problem of terrorism, a phenomenon which, unfortunately, has been known for quite some time in Europe" and rejects both the "increasing tendency to represent the protection of personal privacy as a barrier to the efficient fight against terrorism" and the:
"the amalgam between the fight against real terrorism and the fight against criminality in general"
The Working Party says that powers are already available under the existing EU Directives (1995 and 1997) to allow for "exceptions" to deal with specific conditions.
The Opinion concludes:
"A key element of the fight against terrorism involves ensuring that we preserve the fundamental values which are the basis of our democratic societies and the very values that those advocating the use of violence seek to destroy"
Full-text of report (pdf): Opinion on the need for a balanced approach in the fight against terrorism