Privacy a Central Issue in New Schengen Database
The European Information System called SIS (Schengen Information System) II is launching after substantial delays. The new database is intended to allow security officials faster and easier ways to exchange information, but privacy concerns abound. The main goal of the Schengen Agreement is to have a space of free movement without controls on the internal borders. All EU member states belong to the Schengen area with the exception of Great Britain, Ireland, Cyprus, Romania, and Bulgaria. In light of security concerns, the member states established the SIS in 1995 as a joint database to be used in manhunts. This system has now been reformed and enables European customs and border officials as well as police and prosecutors to search not just for missing people or criminal offenders, but also for cars and weapons. National and European privacy authorities are intended to help determine whether the SIS II conforms to their countries' standards. Some have reservations about the lack of uniform privacy standards in the EU. Federal Commissioner for Data Protection and Freedom of Information, Peter Schaar, believes that such a concentration of power is not in accordance with data protection standards. He also says a situation is developing in which information about not just suspected criminals or criminal deeds is being collected, but simply everyday behaviour.