The European Data Protection Supervisor (EDPS) has kicked off an inquiry into the European Union’s border agency Frontex. The investigation came following the completion of an audit by EDPS, which revealed that Frontex has been automatically disseminating information garnered from interviews with detained migrants and asylum seekers to EU police agency Europol.
The purpose of data sharing is to eliminate cross-border illegal activities such as terrorism and smuggling. The initiative called “Processing of Personal Data for Risk Analysis” (PeDRA) was introduced a couple of months after Europe was plagued by a series of terror attacks in 2015. These incidents revealed the failure of European security services to exchange information that could have resolved some of the calamities. “There is an information vacuum,” previous Europol director Rob Wainwright stated during that period.
The European Union’s internal privacy regulator, EDPS, is raising concerns that large amounts of data belonging to Europeans and migrants are probably being shared unlawfully with Europol. Europol has become more influential over the years in terms of consolidating and monitoring law enforcement data across the bloc. EDPS announced that the comprehensive automated data transfer established by Frontex with Europol shows a violation of a European Union privacy law and the regulation governing the European Border and Coast Guard.
Frontex interviews migrants in detention centers across Europe to gather various details, such as their travel paths, potential supporters, and the identities of individuals involved in cross-border offenses such as illicit trade and extremist activities. The agency responsible for border security has shared data about roughly 13,000 potential suspects with Europol over the course of 2016 through November of the year 2022, according to Uku Sarekanno, Frontex’s deputy director.
The privacy regulator is questioning Frontex’s desire to collect and distribute a wide range of data. An audit performed last year raised concerns that the border agency’s activities are not legal and do not uphold fundamental rights. The regulator criticized the agency for deliberately gathering information about potential suspects during interviews with vulnerable migrants.
The audit observed that the information provided to Europol was probably not very trustworthy and could also be biased.