This morning the Official Journal of the European Union published the Initiative of the French Republic with a view to adopting a Council decision on the use of information technology for customs purposes. This eleven-page documents, which comprises 10 Recitals and 35 draft Articles, seeks to construct among other things a data protection policy which, while not in conflict with EU norms, enables Europe’s customs authorities to carry out their increasingly difficult role of policing the EU’s vast and porous borders in order to check “the developing trend towards illicit trafficking of all kinds” which “constitutes a serious threat to public health, morality and security”. The existing customs information scheme is inadequate:
“Experience gained since the Convention of 26 July 1995 on the use of information technology for customs purposes (hereinafter ‘the CIS convention’) entered into force has shown that the use of the Customs Information System for the sole purposes of sighting and reporting, discreet surveillance or specific checks does not make it possible to achieve fully the system’s objective, which is to assist in preventing, investigating and prosecuting serious contraventions of national laws.”
Article 8 of the French initiative will provide plenty of scope for debate as to whether the correct balance has been struck between the respective and contrasting interests of law enforcement, the public interest and the right of data privacy:
“1. Member States may use data obtained from the Customs Information System only in order to achieve the aim stated in Article 1(2). However, they may use it for administrative or other purposes with the prior authorisation of, and subject to any conditions imposed by, the Member State which included it in the system. Such other use shall be in accordance with the laws, regulations and procedures of the Member State which seeks to use it and should take into account Principle 5.5 of Recommendation R (87) 15 of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe of 17 September 1987, regulating the use of personal data in the police sector, hereinafter referred to as ‘Recommendation R (87) 15’.
2. Without prejudice to paragraphs 1 and 4 of this Article, Article 7(3) and Articles 11 and 12, data obtained from the Customs Information System shall only be used by national authorities in each Member State designated by the Member State in question, which are competent, in accordance with the laws, regulations and procedures of that Member State, to act in order to achieve the aim stated in Article 1(2)”.
4. Data obtained from the Customs Information System may, with the prior authorisation of, and subject to any conditions imposed by, the Member State which included it in the system, be communicated for use by national authorities other than
those designated under paragraph 2, non-Member States, and international or regional organisations wishing to make use of them. Each Member State shall take special measures to ensure the security of such data when they are being transmitted or
supplied to services located outside its territory. Details of such measures must be communicated to the Joint Supervisory Authority referred to in Article 25″.
Datonomy is happy to receive readers’ comments on this initiative, which can be posted below.