The UK is reportedly prepared to give US border authorities unfettered access to its own police databases. The decision reflects changing border policies for countries that are part of the US Visa Waiver Program (VWP).
Generally speaking, the VWP is designed to open up international borders and make it easier for travelers from US allies to enter the United States itself. Citizens of countries that are part of the program are able to visit the US and stay for up to 90 days without a visa of any kind.
However, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is trying to obtain more information about those foreign travelers. To that end, the agency is creating the Enhanced Border Security Partnership (EBSP) for countries that want to remain in the Waiver Program. EBSP membership is voluntary for VWP countries at the moment, but is expected to become mandatory by 2027.
The EBSP itself is an information-sharing arrangement. Countries that want to be a part of the program will need to agree to give DHS more access to the biometric information of travelers from their own country during US border screenings. The US believes that the move will improve border security, and help identify potential security threats.
The UK, meanwhile, has apparently signed on to give DHS access to its police databases. Those databases contain fingerprint and DNA data, all of which can be stored for up to three years (with a possible two-year extension) even if the person they belong to is never formally charged with a crime in British court. News of the agreement comes courtesy of European Parliament, though the UK Home Office did not deny the claim, and instead cited its close relationship with the US on the subject of data sharing.
European Parliament, on the other hand, seems to be more divided on the proposal. According to Parliament’s Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice, and Home Affairs (LIBE), three EU member states have already signed an EDSP agreement, and the Committee has held informal meetings to discuss the program with DHS representatives. However, some members of that Committee believe that the program will compromise the civil liberties of European civilians, and that the German government and the EU Commission will not agree to such invasive terms.
“The US lacks adequate data and fundamental rights protection,” said MEP Patrick Breyer. “Providing personal data to the US exposes our citizens…to the risk of arbitrary detention and false suspicion with possible dire consequences, in the course of the US ‘war on terror.’”
Israel has also signed on to the EDSP program. Any biometric data shared through the program would be used to inform decisions at the US border, with entry either being granted or denied at customs on a case-by-case basis.
Source: The Register
July 5, 2022 – by Eric Weiss