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European Data Protection Supervisor Weighs In On Criminal Records Exchange System

September 22, 2008 By

Last May, the European Commission began establishing an electronic European Criminal Records Information System (ECRIS) to help EU Member States share criminal records and exchange information on past criminal convictions.

Last week, the European Data Protection Supervisor (EDPS) voiced suport of ECRIS, provided that additional data protection guarantees be established to compensate for the current lack of a comprehensive legal framework on data protection in the field of cooperation between police and judicial authorities. EDPS emphasizedthe need for effective coordination in the data protection supervision of the system, which involves authorities of the EU member states and the Commission as provider of the common communication infrastructure.

"The processing of personal data relating to criminal convictions is of a sensitive nature," said Supervisor Peter Hustinx, "and the confidentiality and integrity of criminal records data sent to other member states must be guaranteed. It is therefore paramount that high standards of data protection be applied to the functioning of the system, which should ensure a solid technical infrastructure, a high quality of information and an effective supervision."

The EDPS opinion also includes the following recommendations:

  • A reference to a high level of data protection should be made in the decision as a precondition for the implementing measures to be adopted
  • The responsibility of the commission for the common infrastructure of the system, as well as the applicability of Regulation 45/2001, should be clarified to better ensure legal certainty
  • The Commission should also be responsible for the interconnection software of ECRIS -- and not member states as provided in the proposal -- in order to improve the effectiveness of the exchange and to allow better supervision of the system
  • The use of automatic translations should be clearly defined and circumscribed, so as to favor mutual understanding of criminal offenses without affecting the quality of the information transmitted.

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