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    Deutsche Welle: Privacy a central issue in new Schengen database

    Deutsche Welle reports that there are privacy questions surrounding the European Information System called SIS II, which is set to launch:

    A space of free movement without controls on the internal borders – that was the goal of the Schengen Agreement, which has been in effect since 1995. All EU member states belong to the Schengen area with the exception of Great Britain, Ireland, Cyprus, Romania, and Bulgaria. However, Lichtenstein, Iceland, Norway and Switzerland participate.

    Within the Schengen zone, citizens can move freely and do not need to check in with authorities as they cross from one country to another. In light of security concerns, the member states established a joint database to be used in manhunts. Called the Schengen Information System (SIS), it has now been reformed in an attempt to make sharing information between offices faster and easier.

    In its first generation, the database compiled information about people who were missing, wanted or under observation. When the EU was expanded in 2004, the system was correspondingly broadened to include the new member states. Since then, biometric data, fingerprints and photos are saved and matched up. […]

    Exchanging data is nothing new. “However, with this shift to a second version of the Schengen Information System, a centralization took place in how the data is stored,” said Federal Commissioner for Data Protection and Freedom of Information Peter Schaar in an interview with DW. That’s why it’s even more important for Europe to have uniform standards when it comes to privacy and police investigations, Schaar added. []…

    “In negotiating the expansion to SIS II, Germany has, like other member states, sought to ensure that a high level of privacy protections are established in European regulations,” [Markus Beyer-Pollock, spokesman for Germany’s Federal Ministry of the Interior,] said, who notes that the database merely holds raw data that can be used to compare people sought by the police.

    But Peter Schaar counters that it is important to establish uniform standards across Europe for questions about what data can be saved, for what purposes, and who can access it. […]

    SIS II consists of a central server in Strassbourg (C-SIS) and a further 25 systems in each Schengen member state (N-SIS). When national police offices instigate a search for someone, data is sent from N-SIS to C-SIS, such that just minutes after the information is entered, it is available to all partners. Alarm and other notifications can be activated instantaneously at all border stations.

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