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Europol and counterterrorism: Commission calls for biometric mass surveillance and attacks encryption

Today, the European Commission presented new proposals for the reform of Europol and a strategy to combat terrorism. Europol has just been reprimanded by the European Data Protection Supervisor (EDPS). Now it is to be allowed to collect large amounts of data on non-suspects such as cell-mast data. In addition, the EU Commission’s counter-terrorism strategy advocates, among other things, facial surveillance in public places.

MEP Patrick Breyer (Pirate Party) comments on the anti-terrorism strategy:

“It is vital that we get the fight against terrorism right, so that it doesn’t jeopardise our fundamental rights, which would be doing the terrorists work. The proposed mass surveillance of innocent citizens by deploying error-prone and discriminatory face surveillance in public spaces as well as recording everybody’s travel movements is the work of surveillance extremists. Only recently did the EU Commission consider a facial recognition moratorium – today, it suddenly calls for the opposite.

With its plans to break secure encryption, the EU Commission is putting the general security of our private communications and public networks, business secrets and state secrets at risk for short-term surveillance reasons. Opening the doors to foreign intelligence services and hackers is irresponsible and puts whistleblowers as well as opposition members in dictatorial regimes such as Hong Kong and Belarus, at risk. There is no such thing as a partial back door!

No amount of mass surveillance can make up for authorities repeatedly having failed to watch terrorists-to-be known to the police long before they carried out an attack. In countering terrorism there is no deficit in surveillance, there is a deficit in targeted enforcement!”

As a member of the Europol Supervisory Body JPSG Breyer also comments on the proposed Europol reform:

“With its proposal, the Commission is trying to legalize illegal Europol activities instead of stopping them: According to the European Data Protection Supervisor, Europol has been illegally storing mass amounts of data on non-suspects transmitted by national intervention authorities for years. These are large amounts of data (cell-mast data, and passenger lists) of people who are in no way connected to criminal activities. As a consequence, innocent citizens run the risk of being wrongfully suspected of having committed a crime.

Police cooperation in Europe is crucial. To achieve this, however, Europol must be effectively controlled and prevented from breaking the law. The so far superficial supervisory mechanisms need to be vamped up, so illegal practices by Europol can be detected and stopped”.

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