The EU’s top police force, Europol, has been instructed to remove huge amounts of personal data collected by EU police authorities over the past six years. The contract came from the European Data Protection Supervisory Authority (EDPS), which oversees data protection in most of Europe.
The EDPS has given Europol a year to review databases and remove information unrelated to criminal investigations. The total amount of information stored in Europol databases is around 4 petabytes – the equivalent of hundreds of billions of pages of text printed. The databases contain information on at least a quarter of a million suspects of terrorist activities and serious crimes, as well as information on other people connected to the suspects. The data was obtained from all types of law enforcement agencies in EU countries.
In the text of the order, the EDPS mentions an investigation into the data storage order that began in 2019. It is alleged that personal data have often been stored and processed without adequate justification, which could lead to EU residents being falsely linked to criminal activity.
“Although Europol has now ordered some measures, Europol has not complied with the EDPS requirements to set an acceptable data retention period for filtering and highlighting personal data authorized for analysis under Europol rules.”, – said the EDPS in a press release.
As a result, the EDPS has moved to better advocate for residents’ rights by giving the police a year to sift through existing data to see what data can lawfully be kept and delete newly collected data that cannot were categorized within six months.
According to European experts, Europol’s database contains, at least in part, information on persons who are not “suspects”, “potential future criminals”, “persons who are in contact with or are connected to criminals”, “victims”, “witnesses” or “informants”. “. Human rights defenders believe that this range of categories is already too wide, and the retention of data on individuals who do not fall into such a classification gives cause for concern that Europol has been monitoring illegal groups that are stereotypically ‘suspicious’ or “dangerous.” Most EU citizens have a duty to protect their digital rights.
There are also opposing opinions. Several representatives of the EU apparatus believe that law enforcement authorities need the tools, resources and time to analyze legally obtained data, and the Europol platform supports national police forces that are unable to independently process such huge amounts of data process.