Today, the European Parliament will vote in first reading on conferring new powers to the EU police agency, Europol. Despite a reprimand from the European Data Protection Supervisor last year, Europol is to be allowed to collect and analyse masses of data about innocent people, such as mobile phone movement and air travel data.
As a substitute member of Europol’s supervisory body JPSG, MEP Patrick Breyer (Pirate Party) states:
“My group and I will vote today against the reform, which aims to legalise Europol’s illegal actions instead of stopping them. According to the findings of the European Data Protection Supervisor, Europol has been illegally storing masses of data transmitted by national intervention authorities on millions of unsuspected individuals for years. We are talking about large amounts of data (mobile phone location data, passenger lists) of people who are in no way connected to criminal activities. The consequence is that innocent citizens run the risk of being wrongly suspected of a crime because they were in the wrong place at the wrong time.
The planned cooperation of Europol with private companies (such as Google and Microsoft), which unjustly report masses of people as part of pan-european message screening and chat control, is also unacceptable. The fact that Europol even wants to train error-prone algorithms with real citizens’ data in the future threatens to lead to false positives and discrimination.
Police cooperation in Europe is of crucial importance. For this to happen, however, Europol must be effectively monitored and prevented from violating the law. The supervisory mechanisms, which have been superficial up until now, must be given teeth, so we can recognise and stop illegal practices by the authority. As a member of the supervisory body, I have no right to inspect Europol.“
In an open letter in the run-up to the vote, 25 human rights organisations, including EDRi, Access now and Statewatch, called on MEPs to vote against the report. They said that in order to protect citizens against mass surveillance, data collection should be subject to a prior order and limited to serious crimes. Contrary to the recent parliamentary resolution on biometric mass surveillance, the use of “artificial intelligence” by the police authority would be promoted instead of excluded, even though these technologies promote discrimination and racism when used to analyse large amounts of stored data.