The EU recently began the process of upgrading its ‘Prüm’ network of police databases. The Prüm framework currently allows for an automated data exchange between Member States’ national databases of DNA, fingerprints, and vehicle registration data. Prüm was initially instituted to fight cross-border crime, which continues to be a pressing issue throughout the EU. In 2017, “more than 5,000 serious and organized crime groups were under investigation in Europe, with 7 out of 10 organized criminal groups active in more than 3 countries and with more than 180 nationalities involved.” (European serious and organized crime threat assessment SOCTA, 2017). Because data exchange is a proven effective method to combat crime, the EU council is developing a second iteration, Prüm II, to further strengthen its network.
The EU Council has adopted general policies on an information exchange directive and the Prüm II regulation. Proposed by the French Presidency, the updated Prüm text extends the exchange of data to new categories, including facial images, police records of suspects and convicted criminals, and driver’s licenses. Prüm II also aims to make the system more powerful and efficient by replacing current direct connections between national databases with a central router that unites all the national databases into one virtual location. The new text would also integrate Europol, which will allow access to databases containing non-EU biometric data.
The EU-wide legislative proposal has raised privacy concerns. Opponents say that this upgrade would weaken applicable safeguards and form a basis for a Europe-wide mass biometric surveillance system. Proponents claim this upgrade would introduce no new privacy concerns, as sharing of data is already occurring. EU Council negotiations with the European Parliament on the two legislative proposals will start once the Parliament has adopted its position.