Thursday, September 02, 2010

Ireland opposes EU bid to give Israel access to personal data

One of the things that has concerned me for a long time about the decision making processes in the EU is their inherent opt out nature and the way that bureaucrats and their political bosses make plans and then go ahead with them as long as they are not actively opposed.  Regardless of how wide reaching these plans might be.  Proposals get rubber stamped, without due consideration, at high level committees because the members of the committees have neither the time nor the interest in scrutinising them in detail and this is particularly true when plans can be routed through committees that they are not really related to - as was the case with the various attempts to get software patents approved by sending them through agriculture and fisheries councils of ministers.

The latest controversial EU plan is to allow Israel access to sensitive personal data of EU citizens. The general rule is that sensitive personal data cannot be transferred to 'third countries', i.e. a country outside the EU, unless the country concerned ensures an 'adequate' level of data protection. The operation of the rule in practice has been severely criticised by privacy advocates for many years.  It is arguable for example that a number of the countries already on the approved EU  'third country' list, including the US despite their data safe harbour provisions, have data protection regimes that do not meet the minimum EU standards.

The inclusion of Israel on the approved third country list is a sensitive issue for Ireland at the moment, however, due to the reported use of forged Irish passports by an Israeli hit squad targeting a Hamas military commander earlier this year, in a hotel in Dubai.  Forged UK passports were also involved but there is no indication yet that the UK government are concerned about Israel becoming an approved third country.

Whether or not the Irish ministers suceed in temporarily blocking Israel's access to this data (and yes it will be only temporary) the dispute is no more than a blip in the vast ocean of the personal data collection/processing/use/abuse/pollution systemic mess that we face as a global society.  The way we and future generations deal with that mess is likely to be one of the defining features of the 21st century.

No comments: