Monday, April 9, 2007

EU: Shopping list could make you 'a terror suspect'

27 April 2002: Eurofile: £33m budget passed for Euro-CIA
By Bruno Waterfield in Brussels

Last Updated: 1:10am BST 09/04/2007

The European Union's privacy watchdog has given warning that new access for Europol to personal data could lead to individuals being labelled as terror suspects based on hearsay or records of their shopping habits.

The warning, from the head of the European Data Protection supervisor, comes amid moves to allow the EU police agency to process so-called "soft data" in search of relevant information for its criminal investigations.

Peter Hustinx said that moves to give Europol the power to gather intelligence on "people who have not (yet) committed a crime" are without privacy safeguards.

He told The Daily Telegraph: "The proposal does not specify what data could be used in criminal investigations. It could be everything. It could be a vital detail such as an insurance company about a stolen car. But it could also be soft data, behavioural data."

The information could include statements of hearsay given to a local police force or data on personal shopping habits from a supermarket loyalty card, he said.

Under the new Europol rules, expected to be agreed by governments later this year, people will be unable to find out what information is held on them unless all 27 EU police forces unanimously grant permission.

Sayed Kamall, the Conservative Euro-MP, shares the watchdog's fears and is concerned that "behavioural data" will lead to ethnic profiling.

"For example, someone who purchases kosher meat and never shops on the sabbath, or who buys halal meat but not alcohol, can easily be

categorised and every purchase scrutinised, no matter how innocent it may be," he said.

Mr Hustinx, a Dutchman with decades of experience as a national privacy watchdog and data protection at the European level, is worried at the absence of proper safeguards to ensure the reliability of "soft data".

He said that individuals could easily be identified as suspects, giving the example of someone seen standing next to a terror suspect at a bus stop and becoming labelled "a facilitator for terrorism".

Max-Peter Ratzel, Europol's director, said that European law enforcers needed to update and extend the scope of intelligence gathering - which is unchanged since the EU police agency was set up in the early 1990s.

"Our databases are on organised or serious international crime so I would assume that ordinary citizens would not have any possibility of being there," he said.


Anonymous said...

A good strategy against this sort of profiling is to keep exchanging your supermarket cards with other people in your neighborhood - thus rendering the data useless.

Anonymous said...

i dont know if thats a good strategy. the people that dont know what is going on will still use the loyalty cards and the markets will keep using the cards also. if people would stop using the loyalty cards then these grocery/supermarkets will probably stop using them. i personally never use that monitoring device.

Anonymous said...

europe can you say communisn?

Anonymous said...

A while back in California there was a man who always bought his groceries and alcohol at Ralf's and used the Ralf's "club" card. He slipped and fell in their store and tried to sue them. Needless to say they painted him out as an alcoholic and thew the whole thing out.

Anonymous said...

Also it is hard not to use them if you shop at a major grocer. Too many incentives like food, gas, and prescription discounts for using their "free" cards.

Anonymous said...

were i a terrorist, i don't think i'd be using my own club card. i think i'd probably steal yours. in fact, i'd probably try to get hold of your identity altogether. but, big brother, not really interested in tracking terrorists, now is he?