AK: Bill centralizing citizen biometric data meets EKRE pushback

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EKRE MP Kert Kingo at the Riigikogu. Source: Siim Lõvi /ERR

A bill which has been put before the Rigiikogu would allow the organization of biometric data of citizens into one central database.

Doing so would lead to efficiency gains, supporters say, though the opposition Conservative People's Party of Estonia (EKRE) has tabled over 100 amendments, in an effort to obstruct it.

EKRE MP and former IT minister Kert Kingo said: "Is this needed to just to provide a job for IT companies; I don't know why this data is being collected, where it is going to be forwarded and for whom."

"Is there a desire for still greater censorship and controls on what we do and in so doing, violating constitutional human rights? Because there are no reasons to have such a database," Kingo added.

The Riigikogu's constitutional affairs committee is processing EKRE's amendments, with the bill due to reach the chamber next Wednesday, AK reported.

The Riigikogu breaks up for summer recess a week later.

The proposed database, known by its Estonian abbreviation ABIS, is, Ruth Annus, head of citizenship and migration policy, a technical development only, while the legal basis for the current rights in data gathering in criminal investigations dates back to 2012.

"However, before the creation of the ABIS database, things were very inefficient. The opportunity to use these previously-granted rights effectively now exist," she said.

"With criminal proceedings, ABIS data can only be used with the permission of the prosecutor and only in the investigation of really serious crimes, and there are no plans to change these rules," Annus added.

Daily Eesti Päevaleht (link in Estonian) had reported that Police and Border Guard Board access to such data would be easier then before the database existed, however.

This would include biometric data such as fingerprints.

Lawyer Leon Glikman told AK that while access to the data in serious crimes was justifiable, it should be courts and not the prosecutor's offce which grant the permission.

"The idea is simply that law enforcement would not just have access to a person's private data, but that there would be some sort of filter in place for the court to check whether such state interference is overwhelming," Glikman said.

A recent European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruling has in any case prompted a domestic bill which would require the prosecutor's office to obtain permission in communications data collection in criminal cases, something it has not had to do hitherto. That bill has already passed its first Riigikogu reading.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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