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Internal LIBE meeting with US Homeland Security: Plans for biometric databases put EU citizens’ data at risk

European Parliament Freedom, democracy and transparency Press releases

Yesterday, members of the European Parliament’s Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE) had an informal meeting with representatives of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. During the meeting, the new US “International Biometric Information Sharing (IBIS)” programme was presented. Threatening to reintroduce visa requirements, the USA wants to force EU Member States to grant access to biometric databases. Three EU member states and the United Kingdom are said to have already signed on to the programme. A representative of the EU Commission expressed criticism the USA was deliberately undermining European treaties through direct agreements with EU member states.

When asked exactly what data the US wants to tap into, the answer was: as much as possible. When asked what would happen at US borders if a traveller was known to the police in the EU, it was said that this would be decided by the US immigration officer on a case-by-case basis.

Pirate Party MEP Dr Patrick Breyer comments:

“I expect the EU Commission and also the German government to reject the demand of the US authorities and not allow themselves to be blackmailed. If necessary, the visa waiver programme must be terminated by Europe as well. Millions of innocent Europeans are listed in police databases and could be exposed to completely disproportionate reactions in the USA. The US lacks adequate data and fundamental rights protection. Providing personal data to the US exposes our citizens i.e. to the risk of arbitrary detention and false suspicion, with possible dire consequences, in the course of the US “war on terror”. We must protect our citizens from these practices.”