Is the EU going to save us from the database state after all? The European Data Protection Supervisor, Peter Hustinx, who has been consistently vocal in his opposition to new (Blair/UK-proposed) EU data retention regulations, has warned in his annual report (.pdf) that he’s going to give the EU until next year – a year before the UK’s ID database scheme will start coming into effect – before he starts clamping down on privacy abuses.
Although his remit only applies to EU bodies and institutions, if we’re lucky and he succeeds in his quest to get privacy regulations effectively imposed throughout the central parts of the European Union, Brussels may start to take notice, and use its powers to impose similar restrictions on national governments.
A lot of “ifs”, perhaps, but it’s the best we’ve got at the moment, as the EU is the only body capable of forcing our delightful govenment from backing down on its ridiculous database and ID card plans.
In any case, considering that identity theft, organised crime and terrorism (still the main bogeymen used as justification for Labour’s ID card white elephant) traverse borders – and especially considering that Irish nationals’ right to enter the UK freely will still stand, and that foreign visitors of less than three months will be exempt from the scheme – trying to deal with the supposed threats on a national level is simply pointless. Only if Blair and Co’s ID scheme applied to every single EU citizen and every single visitor to the EU would they have any cause to claim us to be safer than we currently are – and even then there would be ways around it.
Either way, I can’t see the EU – containing as it does so many nations which have experienced fascist/communist police states within living memory – agreeing to the kinds of intrusive measures that Blair’s planning for us Brits. And though I’m no lawyer, unless the ID scheme expands to cover the EU, if the EU starts clamping down on unnecessary and intrusive data retention I’m fairly certain that us Brits will be able to use European Courts to challenge the usurped right of the British state to force us to hand over so many unnecessary details to our government.
After all, why should there be such restrictions on EU institutions without similar safeguards placed on our national governments? When was the last time a supranational organisation instituted widescale civil rights abuses? These have always come from nation states.
We’ve lost the ID fight in the UK. We’ve yet to lose it in the EU. And Peter Hustinx will, for the next few years, be our key ally.