Two Heads Are Better Than One for EU Fundamental Privacy Rights Protection


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Two European Union agencies charged with advising government bodies on fundamental rights have agreed to closer cooperation on protecting EU citizens’ data privacy rights.

European Union Data Protection Supervisor (EDPS) and the EU Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA) signed a memorandum of understanding recently to encourage exchanging of information and collaborating on research projects. 

The two agencies have overlapping missions, with FRA serving “expert advice” to EU government institutions and EU countries to ensure that citizens’ fundamental rights are protected. EDPS advises EU government bodies on privacy and data protection, each of which is a distinct fundamental right of EU citizens.

For example, both agencies have been working on different fundamental rights aspects of the EU Smart Borders Package, a series of measures meant to strengthen external border management. FRA interviewed EU citizens about the impact of the three different options for collecting biometric data (fingerprints, iris scanning and facial recognition) on fundamental rights including dignity, privacy, data protection, discrimination and right to information.

Meanwhile, EDPS has raised concerns over aspects of the border plan and its effects on the fundamental rights of privacy and data protection.

“This is no empty gesture. It reflects not only the close and constructive relationship our two organisations have enjoyed since their inception over ten years ago,” Giovanni Buttarelli, the European Data Protection Supervisor, wrote on his blog.

Buttarelli cited “the use of encryption to safeguard private messages to the use of biometric identifiers in large scale migration databases to devising new digital ethics” as areas where the two rights agencies will be collaborating.

EDPS and FRA agreed to establish a single point of contact in each agency with the intention to consult “on a regulator basis,” according to the MOU.

 

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