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Comparison between US and European anti-terror policies

18 January, 2006

In a report titled " Threatening the Open Society: Comparing Anti-terror Policies and Strategies in the U.S. and Europe" and released on 13 December 2005, Privacy International compared the anti-terrorism approaches in the U.S. with those in Europe. The report finds that on every policy involving mass surveillance of its citizens, the EU is prepared to go well beyond what the U.S. Government finds acceptable, and violates the privacy of citizens.

The report is highlighting the differences between EU and US in terms of access to communications data, retention of communications transactions data, data profiling and data mining, access to passenger reservation files and biometric registration and is concluding that in each case the EU is implementing surveillance powers well beyond those in U.S., and with far

Big Brother Awards presented in 4 countries

3 November, 2005

The sixth edition of Swiss Big Brother Awards ceremony was held in Zurich's Rote Fabrik on 29 October 2005. The Swiss jury received 100 nominations in four categories: government, business, workplace and the special life-time achievement award. The financial services branch of Swiss Post, Postfinance, was awarded the business award for the illegal transfer of bank transaction data to the United States. The transfer became apparent after a Swiss man tried to transfer an amount in US dollars to a Cuban travel agency based in Switzerland. Both bank accounts were registered in Zurich. Although the man assumed the transfer was purely domestic it turned out that Postfinance uses its US partner Western Union for all transactions in US dollars. The man was notified that the US Department of the Treasury had confiscated his money because of the US embargo against Cuba. Postfinance advised him to send a protest to the US authorities in order to get his money back. So much for the Swiss bank secrecy.

EDRI-event at Data Protection Conference in Montreux

21 September, 2005

EDRI and a coalition of civil liberty groups has organised a pre-event at the international conference of data protection commissioners on 12 September in Montreux. The aim was to strengthen cooperation between NGOs and official data protection authorities (DPAs). The meeting was well-attended by NGOs, privacy officials and industry representatives and led to promising discussions on how to improve collaboration in the future.

The panel on data retention noticed the interesting development of an emerging "rainbow coalition" between civil liberties groups, DPAs, Internet and telecommunication providers, and the European Parliament. Hielke Hijmans from the Office of the European Data Protection Supervisor (EDPS) presented the concerns of the EDPS. He made it clear that "terrorism is not out of this world when you retain data", and while

Data Protection Commissioners Conference in Montreux

21 September, 2005

The 27th international conference of data protection commissioners took place in Montreux/Switzerland from 13 to 15 September 2005. The meeting with the title "The protection of personal data and privacy in a globalised world: A universal right respecting diversities" saw several hundred data protection authorities (DPA) officials, industry, cyberrights groups and other stake-holders for three intense days of discussion. One big issue was the tenth anniversary of the EU's data protection directive from 1995. The assessment was mixed, though. There are still many differences in national laws and enforcement is weak. While the EU directive had a big impact on the globalisation of data protection legislation, this approach is hard to enforce on the border-less Internet. There is also a strategic rival emerging with the APEC privacy guidelines

New Dutch database to create lifetime record for every baby

21 September, 2005

The Dutch ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport plans to introduce a new electronic file on every new-born, starting in January 2007. The file will contain information about the child, the family situation and its surroundings, later adding educational data, information from social workers and possible police records. The file will be principally maintained by youth doctors and medics working for the child public health care service. The file will be connected to the citizen service number, a new electronic ID for every Dutch resident and citizen replacing the old social-fiscal number. Secretary of State Clémence Ross explained: "Medics can easily trace the development and situation of a child and thus get a clear picture of its need for care. They can also see which other institutions work or have worked with a child. The electronic childfile

Preview Montreux conference Data Protection Authorities

8 September, 2005

European Digital Rights, together with a number of other international digital rights organisations, is organising two panels on data retention and on biometrics, as a pre-event to the annual DPA conference in Montreux, Switzerland on 13 September 2005.

It is widely expected the Chair of the Article 29 Working Party, Peter Schaar, will close the meeting with a vehement statement against the current proposals for data retention. This statement might well follow the lines of a recent opinion written by the Dutch chair of the Data Protection Authority, Jacob Kohnstamm. He specifically addresses the two types of cases which according to the Erasmus study require data retention: International criminal investigations and long-lasting research into organised crime.

Kohnstamm writes: "Where international criminal investigations make very slow progress, streamlining procedures and formalities for obtaining international legal assistance should be pursued energetically. A mandatory extension of the retention period for traffic data does not offer a logical solution to the problem." And when investigating organised crime "one should first check whether this type of investigation is given sufficient priority by the police and the prosecutor's office, before deciding on new far-reaching powers." If the priority is high enough, the police can use many other powers, such as bugging conversations and wiretapping telephone lines, according to Kohnstamm.

Montreux Data Protection Commissioners Conference 2005

8 September, 2005

European Digital Rights is kindly inviting all interested people to attend a special public pre-event to the annual DPA conference in Montreux, Switzerland on 13 September 2005. EDRI, together with other NGO's defending digital civil rights, is organising two panels, on biometrics and on data retention.

Strategies for International Privacy Protection
=Issues, Actors, and Future cooperation=

Time and place: Tuesday 13 September 2005, 14:30-18:00, in the Montreux Conference Center, Grand-rue 95, CH-1820 Montreux, Switzerland

Germany: biometric passports in November

14 July, 2005

The German Upper House approved on 8 July the introduction of biometric passports. The 'ePass' will contain a contactless chip (RFID) that will hold a digital frontal picture of the bearer's face. In the future, two fingerprints, one from each hand, will be included - probably starting in 2007. The issuing of the biometric passports is expected to begin in November 2005.

The picture and fingerprints in the chip will be compared with those of the holder of the passport. This will make it possible to establish that the passport really belongs to the holder. During border checks the data in passport can also be compared to federal police watchlists. Currently, there is no plan in Germany to create a central database to store the biometric data.

To facilitate privacy of the data and secure it against unnoticed reading or capture of the transmission, public-key cryptography will be employed. Reader devices at the border also integrate keys. These shall only live for a few weeks, so that stolen reader devices cannot be successfully used to steal data over a prolonged period of time.

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With financial support from the EU's Fundamental Rights and Citizenship Programme.
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