Police data regulation bill approved

  • Lack of legal clarity regarding storage of personal data of people involved in police investigations
  • The minister of the interior wishes to remedy this
  • Joëlle Milquet will give police a regulatory framework

I committed a driving offense. I was convicted of shoplifting. I am a suspect in a homicide investigation…All this information and more, still relevant to an investigation, remain in police files. Who has access to them? How long can they be maintained? The law is vague in the area of rules for the police force (and by extension, citizen rights). Joëlle Milquet (CDH), minister of the interior, hopes to fill this void through changes to article 44 regarding the role of the police. The bill was approved on Friday on the government’s first reading. Data storage in the future will be strictly regulated.

What data?

This concerns all personal data stored by the police for investigative purposes. This could also involve administrative (belonging to groups known for their excesses on the public roads, address-related inquiries, driving violations) or legal data (suspects in an investigation or convictions). No social (union, charity or philosophical) or economic (debt records) activities are to be included. This data is already stored in the general national database (BNG) or in the police districts. No definite rule exists, however (except for internal memos), that determines to whom and when it can be transmitted and how long it needs to be stored.

Storage. The BNG administrative police data (pertaining to law enforcement) are kept for five years. Driving violations are accessible for one year, offenses for ten years, crimes and unresolved criminal investigations for thirty years. In the police districts driving violations will be kept for five years and judicial matters for fifteen. Next, these will be archived for a period of 30 years in the BNG as well as the districts. Access to these data will then be very restricted.

Who? Not all law enforcement officers will be able to access all of the data. Total or partial access will be made available according to a police officer’s “profile”. Judicial investigators will have the greatest access. Local agents can access information useful to their daily administrative work. Personnel assigned to the borders will only have access to certain types of information (arrest warrants, prohibited entry into the territory).

Control. Police officers in each district and the federal police will assume the role of security and confidentiality advisors. Also, as is already the case, an individual can contact the CPCP (privacy protection commission) to ensure that no information pertaining to him is kept in an abusive or incorrect fashion. The bill stipulates that the police officers update, delete, or correct data according to any ongoing investigation or court decision. The oversight organization that supervises correct data handling procedures will be supported by, and connected to, the privacy protection commission.

This was a divisive topic that has pitted the government and parliament against each other since 2008. The members of parliament refused to allow such a delicate matter to be regulated by royal decree; the bill will therefore be submitted to the Council of State this summer. It will then be sent back to the government in the fall.

PASCAL LORENT

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