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SurveillanceThe European Commission July 20 published a review of European Union law enforcement systems and databases, as a first step in evaluating them to establish if they continue to fulfil a useful function and provide value to policing authorities, writes Stephen Gardner.

The survey covers 17 databases and systems, and also includes information about the 1995 Data Retention Directive, which governs the use of personal data for the investigation of crime. The 17 systems and databases are EU-level instruments that facilitate sharing of data between authorities in different EU countries.

EU Home Affairs Commissioner Cecelia Malmstrom said the survey had been completed at the request of the European Parliament. She had ordered the overview because "citizens should have the right to know what personal data are kept and exchanged about them".

The Commission also published "core principles" that would "underpin the evaluation of information management instruments in the area of freedom, security and justice". The Commission said the systems and databases would be reviewed against their utility in respect of safeguarding the rights to privacy and data protection; their necessity; and being based on a clear allocation of responsibilities. Existing and new instruments would be reviewed and made subject to sunset clauses as necessary, the Commission said.

'Events driven'

An EU official who asked not to be named said that many systems and databases had been developed in response to terrorist attacks, and had been "events driven". The Commission now wanted to review the instruments and make them "more coherent and a little bit less events driven." The principles for evaluating both existing and new instruments formed a "checklist against which we will see how to develop information management in the future".

The official added that the review had found overlaps between some different instruments, though these were "very rare". An analysis of the costs and benefits of the systems would form part of the future review, the official added.

The databases and systems covered by the survey are:

- Schengen Information System
- Schengen Information System II
- Visa Information System
- Advance Passenger Information System
- Naples II Convention
- Customs Information System
- The "Swedish Initiative" (sharing of "criminal intelligence")
- The Prüm Decision
- European Criminal Records Information System
- Financial Intelligence Unit cooperation
- Asset Recovery Offices cooperation
- National and EU Cybercrime Platforms
- Europol
- Eurojust
- Passenger Name Record agreements with the US, Canada and Australia
- Terrorist Finance Tracking Program agreement with the US

A version of this article was published on the e-Forum website.

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