A freedom of information request, submitted by Statesman, was denied over last year’s outlined proposal by the Department of Homeland Security to open up exchange of biometric data between participating states and the USA’s national IDENT/HART system, as a negotiation of the U.S. visa policy.
Cross-data sharing which could be helpful to connect identifies to crimes or illegal border entry in other countries.
Despite a “generally” positive dialogue with member states a year ago, it seems cooperation has stalled with the request filed rejected due to “sensitive information of ongoing discussions” .
The negotiation talks are more than a year old between the Commission and U.S. on the arrangement of the Enhanced Border Security Partnership (EBSP). The rejection letter was signed by Monique Pariat, the Director-General for Migration and Home Affairs.
The USA issued an ultimatum on biometric data sharing in February 2022 which would cooperate members including the UK, Israel and the EU to share their databases to help fight serious crime and immigration, which is particularly a problem in a large country like the U.S.
The USA’s vast databank – the IDENT/HART system – contains 270 million U.S. citizen identities and is the largest U.S. government biometric database and 2nd largest globally.
In May, it came to light that the Commission was delayed “working on a Proof of Concept” to assess the benefits of the data-sharing model, with the EU legal system arguing that it compromises privacy protections.
Privacy and the need to protect “international relations” of the working group seems to have been the reason for developments not being disclosed.
Five to-date documents were identified relating to the EU’s “proof of concept” and proposed Enhanced Border Security Partnership and working group. Their active status has not been confirmed and it is still not clear whether USA’s and the Commission’s relationship will strengthen data sharing.
Pariat said an update on the Partnership would threaten public security and amount to a “breach of trust of the US authorities and could therefore undermine international relations with the US.”
Image source: Elena Lacey