EU 'smart borders' program could lead to Big Brother surveillance, says leading politician

The proposed law would turn Europe into an e-fortress, according to a Member of the European Parliament

European Union plans for new border controls will result in "Big Brother" surveillance, a leading politician warned on Thursday.

The European Commission presented its plans for so-called 'Smart Borders' on Thursday. The Commission wants to use automated technology to monitor non-E.U. citizens entering and leaving the bloc.

"The use of new technologies will enable smoother and speedier border crossing for third country citizens who want to come to the E.U. Modernizing our systems will also lead to a higher level of security by preventing irregular border crossings and detecting those who overstay," said Home Affairs Commissioner Cecilia Malmström.

But Green member of the European Parliament Jan Philipp Albrecht said the smart borders initiative would create an "e-fortress Europe" and added that there is "no evidence to show that this trend towards mass data storage has yielded any improvements for security and criminal investigations." Data of all passengers traveling from third countries into the E.U. would be collected, he said.

The plan consists of a Registered Traveler Program (RTP) aimed at frequent business travelers or those with relatives in the E.U. and an Entry/Exit System (EES). The RTP would make use of automated border control systems such as automated gates for pre-screened visitors.

The EES would digitally record the time and place of entry and exit of third country nationals and issue an alert to national authorities when there is no exit record by the expiry time. The current practice when checking a third country national wanting to cross the E.U.'s external borders is based mainly on the stamps in the travel document.

Together with fellow politician Ska Keller, Albrecht has set up a campaign against the proposals called Smashborders.EU urging citizens to fight against "the creation of an enormous database" that would infringe civil liberties.

The proposals will now go to the European Parliament and, if approved, the member states. The Commission hopes to see the system start operations in 2017 or 2018.

Follow Jennifer on Twitter at @BrusselsGeek or email tips and comments to jennifer_baker@idg.com.

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Tags privacyeuropean commissionGovernment use of IT

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Jennifer Baker

IDG News Service
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