European Parliament fears that Europol may store more data for longer

Plenary session - Tineke Strik

The European Commission is going to propose to the European Parliament and the EU member states to legalize the controversial data storage of the EU police organization Europol.

Last week it turned out that Europol did not delete data about suspects – as is now prescribed – after six months. Moreover, such personal data is still shared with other police forces even after a long time. 

The European Commission does not want to reverse this method, but legalize it. Trilateral negotiations on that proposal will soon start between the European Parliament, the Commission, and the Member States. 

'The proposal legalizes Europol's current working methods,' confirms Dutch MEP Tineke Strik (GroenLinks). 'In addition, Europol will be given even more powers to extract information from data files and add them to those files.'

Strik expects that the EU countries and the Commission in particular will press for an extension of Europol's powers. According to her, Parliament is divided, but generally more critical about such privacy matters.

Going through and cleaning all the data will be a tough job as Europol would have about 4 petabytes of data, according to the British newspaper Guardian. That equates to hundreds of billions of printed pages full of data.

Data protection advocates say the amount of information on Europol's systems is tantamount to mass surveillance and becoming a European counterpart to the US National Security Agency (NSA). Their clandestine online spying was exposed a few years ago by whistleblower Edward Snowden. 

As far as is known, the Dutchman Frank van der Linde is the only person who has been incorrectly registered in the Europol database and who also found out himself. According to a later court decision, he was wrongly qualified as an extremist by the Dutch police.

Thanks to a court decision, Van der Linde was able to see his file and found out that his Dutch data had also been passed on to Europol. The Dutch police initially denied this, but later reluctantly admitted it.