Legal experts spot problem with ABIS cross-use of data bill

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Paul Keres, one of the two lawyers who Harju County Court fined, after they expressed concerns over COVID-19 practices at the courthouse. Source: Siim Lõvi /ERR

The Riigikogu passed the draft of the so-called personal identification database bill (ABIS) on Tuesday regardless of EKRE's delaying tactics. Legal experts have said the main problem is the possibility that information added to the system for another reason might be used in criminal proceedings.

State law expert Paloma Krõõt Tupay said, that with such practices, there is always a risk of infringement of a person's fundamental rights and the question remains of whether it is allowed. She said that although the police have the legal possibility to use the photo and fingerprints that were made when applying for a passport in criminal proceedings, the discussion that has already taken place shows that people may not be aware of this.

"Indeed, there is a place for discussion here, and we see it in other databases as well, where we have to ask whether it is clear and visible enough to people, on what legal bases and for what purposes their data can be cross-used in today's e-state," Tupay explained.

Such cross-sharing of data is also considered a problem by attorney-at-law Paul Keres. In one case, people give up their data in order to obtain a passport, for example, but in criminal proceedings where the police can use this data later, the principle actually applies that a person has no obligation to share any data with the state.

"If the state has previously received this data from somewhere in the past and then now has a direct connection to this data and can collect this data, it can be said that this privilege has been passed with a little fraud," Keres said.

Chairman of the Constitutional Committee of the Riigikogu Toomas Kivimägi admitted that with this database a person gives some such as fingerprints or facial images to the state but public order and national security will benefit.

"If Kivimägi thinks it's easier to catch criminals like that, I'd suggest putting a policeman in the living room for all families. But do we want that?" Keres asked.

While Kivimägi sees no conflict with the Constitution, Martin Helme, the chairman of EKRE, who opposed the bill, does see a conflict.

Helme noted that in the past, the president has failed to promulgate the law in the case of a similar violation of fundamental rights.

As the ABIS bill was passed, EKRE has said it will continue to obstruct the work of the Riigikogu.

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Editor: Roberta Vaino

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