EU hashes terrorist data deal

Human rights and personal privacy sacrificed once more in the name of collective government security

What a hash Europe has made of its agreement to give US federal police access to its personal banking data.

The European Parliament made a vocal attempt at turning the Terrorist Finance Tracking Programme, which involves giving mountains of personal banking data to US investigators, into something of which Europe could be proud. But it never had a hope.

National governments wanted a deal done on Washington's terms -- no matter that it drove a spike through Europe's much-besieged data protection principles. The only way Europe could have done this data deal with any integrity would have been to reject it outright.

The TFTP agreement, approved by the parliament last Thursday, allows US agents to subpoena a private European company for personal data without going through a judicial authority. There is some disagreement in Europe over whether police data search warrants should require a court order. While in many cases they do, the TFTP deal establishes a distinctly un-European precedent -- allowing even a non-European police agency unwarranted access to personal data.

US requests for TFTP data are passed to Europol, a police agency with which the US also shares intelligence gleaned from the requests. And Europol can ask the US to make a request for TFTP data to help with its own investigations. The US returns such requests to Europol for approval.

The European Commission and European Parliament praised the deal for the protection it provided people whose banking data is accessed. But its protections are a sop. Europe's data protection commissioners opposed the deal, as did the European Data Protection Supervisor, because EU law wouldn't permit it. The commission ensured the deal's legal integrity by removing clauses that held it accountable to the European Convention on Human Rights and the Charter of Fundamental Rights.

It breached the principles of necessity and proportionality by allowing US agents to bulk-copy loads of private banking data in their hunt for terrorist financiers. In an age when technology provides a simple means for the mass collection and processing of personal data, these principles are increasingly disregarded.

Retrospectively short-sighted

The same is becoming true of police warrants more broadly. A briefing paper published this month by JUSTICE, the human rights law group, noted how a proposed European Investigation Order covering police requests for data, intercepts, search warrants and so on omitted to require such orders be necessary and proportionate.

Like the TFTP agreement, the European Investigation Order (EIO) seeks to give police agencies authority to approve one another's requests for evidence. Jodie Blackstock, author of the JUSTICE brief, said European human rights law requires that all such requests be granted by a judicial authority.

Like the TFTP agreement, the proposed EIO did not provide an adequate means of redress for people wrongly fingered by the police using these lax rules of evidence-gathering, did not require reasonable grounds of suspicion for a warrant to be issued, and provided only weak grounds for refusing a request. And the evidence for dropping these precautions was itself lacking.

Oversight of the latest TFTP agreement is retrospective and severely limited. An example is its pledge that the TFTP, but not data derived from it, "does not and shall not involve data mining or any other type of algorithmic or automated profiling or computer filtering". It is peppered with disingenuous morsels of this kind, presented instead of direct accountability to human rights law.

All in all, the precedent set by the TFTP is one that is gradually making its way into European and international law, which is that police data-sharing and processing should be enhanced with all the powers computers offer, that operational convenience overrides the principles of necessity and proportionality, and that judicial oversight must similarly not be allowed to create a bottleneck: considered, independent restraint has no place in the information age. All we can expect is share now, ask later.

As JUSTICE says in relation to the EIO, it continues a trend for human rights to be dropped for the sake of the operational efficiency of international policing joint ventures, but this overlooks that the increased ease of such co-operation makes human rights more important than ever.

Mark Ballard is a freelance journalist who writes about computer policy, crime, security, law and systems.

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If there’s no booze or naked women, what’s the point of being a footballer?

Peter Crouch came out with one of the wittiest football lines. When asked what he thought he would have been but for football, he replied: “A virgin.”

At a professional league ground near you, the following conversation will be taking place. After an excellent morning training session, in which the players all worked hard, and didn’t wind up the assistant coach they all hate, or cut the crotch out of the new trousers belonging to the reserve goalie, the captain or some senior player will go into the manager’s office.

“Hi, gaffer. Just thought I’d let you know that we’ve booked the Salvation Hall. They’ll leave the table-tennis tables in place, so we’ll probably have a few games, as it’s the players’ Christmas party, OK?”

“FECKING CHRISTMAS PARTY!? I TOLD YOU NO CHRISTMAS PARTIES THIS YEAR. NOT AFTER LAST YEAR. GERROUT . . .”

So the captain has to cancel the booking – which was actually at the Salvation Go Go Gentlemen’s Club on the high street, plus the Saucy Sporty Strippers, who specialise in naked table tennis.

One of the attractions for youths, when they dream of being a footballer or a pop star, is not just imagining themselves number one in the Prem or number one in the hit parade, but all the girls who’ll be clambering for them. Young, thrusting politicians have similar fantasies. Alas, it doesn’t always work out.

Today, we have all these foreign managers and foreign players coming here, not pinching our women (they’re too busy for that), but bringing foreign customs about diet and drink and no sex at half-time. Rotters, ruining the simple pleasures of our brave British lads which they’ve enjoyed for over a century.

The tabloids recently went all pious when poor old Wayne Rooney was seen standing around drinking till the early hours at the England team hotel after their win over Scotland. He’d apparently been invited to a wedding that happened to be going on there. What I can’t understand is: why join a wedding party for total strangers? Nothing more boring than someone else’s wedding. Why didn’t he stay in the bar and get smashed?

Even odder was the behaviour of two other England stars, Adam Lallana and Jordan Henderson. They made a 220-mile round trip from their hotel in Hertfordshire to visit a strip club, For Your Eyes Only, in Bournemouth. Bournemouth! Don’t they have naked women in Herts? I thought one of the points of having all these millions – and a vast office staff employed by your agent – is that anything you want gets fixed for you. Why couldn’t dancing girls have been shuttled into another hotel down the road? Or even to the lads’ own hotel, dressed as French maids?

In the years when I travelled with the Spurs team, it was quite common in provincial towns, after a Saturday game, for players to pick up girls at a local club and share them out.

Like top pop stars, top clubs have fixers who can sort out most problems, and pleasures, as well as smart solicitors and willing police superintendents to clear up the mess afterwards.

The England players had a night off, so they weren’t breaking any rules, even though they were going to play Spain 48 hours later. It sounds like off-the-cuff, spontaneous, home-made fun. In Wayne’s case, he probably thought he was doing good, being approachable, as England captain.

Quite why the other two went to Bournemouth was eventually revealed by one of the tabloids. It is Lallana’s home town. He obviously said to Jordan Henderson, “Hey Hendo, I know a cool club. They always look after me. Quick, jump into my Bentley . . .”

They spent only two hours at the club. Henderson drank water. Lallana had a beer. Don’t call that much of a night out.

In the days of Jimmy Greaves, Tony Adams, Roy Keane, or Gazza in his pomp, they’d have been paralytic. It was common for players to arrive for training still drunk, not having been to bed.

Peter Crouch, the former England player, 6ft 7in, now on the fringes at Stoke, came out with one of the wittiest football lines. When asked what he thought he would have been but for football, he replied: “A virgin.”

Hunter Davies is a journalist, broadcaster and profilic author perhaps best known for writing about the Beatles. He is an ardent Tottenham fan and writes a regular column on football for the New Statesman.

This article first appeared in the 01 December 2016 issue of the New Statesman, Age of outrage