Belgium and the US arrangement on the exchange of fingerprint and DNA

Michael Spooner

Posted on behalf of our new Brussels blogger Sebastien Lardinoit:

Belgium and the US have recently reached an agreement on the exchange of fingerprint, DNA and other biometric information. The Belgian Minister of Internal Affairs Ms Turtelboom announced the news during the course of her visit to Washington at the occasion of the EU-America summit of December 2010.

Reaching an agreement on such a sensitive issue was onerous and involved almost two years of negotiations. Initially there were many reservations from the Belgian Privacy Commission (“BPC”). The BPC expressed its concerns in its advice of 24 November 2010 on the US draft agreement on enhancing cooperation in Preventing and Combating Serious Crime (“PCSC”) (advice available in French and Dutch on www.privacycommission.be).

The BPC (amongst others)were concerned over the lack of clarity with respect to the circumstances in which fingerprints, DNA data and related data may be used and/or exchanged, however the US were eventually able to provide sufficient guarantees to the BPC to enable an agreement to be reached. 

The agreement provides Belgian and US police forces with an important new instrument in the fight against organised crime. Ms Turtelboom said of the agreement: “This is co-operation in the field. Detectives will be able to look and see whether a person’s fingerprints or DNA is already stored in a databank. It will really help to solve several major cases.”

The agreement between Belgium and the US will certainly strengthen the fight against terrorism, but has broader benefits too: “It will be advantageous in the fight against serious cross border organised crime.”

The US have already entered into similar PCSC agreements with other EU member states including the Netherlands and Portugal.

The final agreement will be signed in Belgium in the course of January 2011 in the presence of the US Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano. 

Belgium and the US have recently reached an agreement on the exchange of fingerprint, DNA and other biometric information. The Belgian Minister of Internal Affairs Ms Turtelboom announced the news during the course of her visit to Washington at the occasion of the EU-America summit of December 2010.

Reaching an agreement on such a sensitive issue was onerous and involved almost two years of negotiations. Initially there were many reservations from the Belgian Privacy Commission (“BPC”). The BPC expressed its concerns in its advice of 24 November 2010 on the US draft agreement on enhancing cooperation in Preventing and Combating Serious Crime (“PCSC”) (advice available in French and Dutch on www.privacycommission.be).

The BPC (amongst others)were concerned over the lack of clarity with respect to the circumstances in which fingerprints, DNA data and related data may be used and/or exchanged, however the US were eventually able to provide sufficient guarantees to the BPC to enable an agreement to be reached. 

The agreement provides Belgian and US police forces with an important new instrument in the fight against organised crime. Ms Turtelboom said of the agreement: “This is co-operation in the field. Detectives will be able to look and see whether a person’s fingerprints or DNA is already stored in a databank. It will really help to solve several major cases.”

The agreement between Belgium and the US will certainly strengthen the fight against terrorism, but has broader benefits too: “It will be advantageous in the fight against serious cross border organised crime.”

The US have already entered into similar PCSC agreements with other EU member states including the Netherlands and Portugal.

The final agreement will be signed in Belgium in the course of January 2011 in the presence of the US Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano.

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