EU ministers want more access to personal data, improved anti-terror coordination

People gather around a memorial in Brussels following bomb attacks in Brussels, Belgium, March 22, 2016. © Charles Platiau
In a push to combat terrorism after the Brussels attacks, European ministers are reportedly preparing to push through new laws that would give security agencies direct access to personal data.

According to a draft statement seen by the Financial Times, the ministers, who plan to hold an emergency meeting on Thursday, are planning to make it easier to access telecommunications data and other “digital evidence.”

“We are convinced of the need to … find ways, as a matter of priority, to secure and obtain more quickly and effectively digital evidence,” the statement reportedly reads.

The ministers are also proposing the creation of a “dedicated platform” for information sharing to boost cooperation between national security agencies across Europe amid concerns that the services are failing to work together to stop known jihadists from committing acts of terrorists.

The proposals suggest collecting this evidence from the Middle East as well as “service providers that are active on European territory leading to improved compliance and direct access by law enforcement authorities.”

The Financial Times reports that the ministers have indicated in the document that the plans would build “privacy safeguards from the onset.” At the same time, the plans reiterate the EU’s commitment to such controversial plans as the creation of a passenger name database, a proposal which has been debated in the European parliament since 2011. This scheme would give security services access to an air-passenger’s information including their name, home address, and itinerary. It would also allow the authorities to find out how they had paid for their ticket, where they sat on the plane, what baggage they had with them, and whether they had requested halal food.

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Certain governments, such as the UK, already collect this type of data.

At least thirty-four people were killed and some 300 injured by the suicide attacks at the Brussels airport and Maelbeek metro station on Tuesday.