EU, travel and privacy event - Czech style

Well, here i am in prague – sitting in a room in kaca and marek’s flat after a

Well, here i am in prague – sitting in a room in kaca and marek’s flat after a great day on privacy, travel and the EU – an event hosted by ‘ludicrum remedium’ – a small ngo that shares space with the APC folk in prague.

They provide free legal assistance to those who can’t afford otherwise, and focus on the social impact and policy implications of technological developments. (

Marek provides all kinds of support to them and found himself in the position of primarily organising yesterday’s events which brought together czech and european stakeholders across the spectrum working on technological developments that affect the movement of people across borders.

So, we had speakers from data protection agencies (italy, czech republic, spain) and czech law enforcement, ministry of the interior, airlines, and companies that are producing the rfid-chipped czech passport – which comes into force sep 1. (some of you may remember that APC endorsed a statement supporting a campaign led by privacy international highlighting the dangers of biometric passport standards that have been developed by the UN Civil Aviatation Organisation –[theme]=Border%20and%20Travel%20Surveillance – in April 2004)

The day was divided into three sessions: the first on the background of travel documents and biometrics, the schengen information system, and the evolution of Schengen II and III

The second focussed in more detail on the mechanics of biometrics and how this is being incorporated into the czech passport – and – for the first time for most – even the most ardent campaigners on this issue – it was the first time we had actually seen one – and heard from the company that won the tender to produce them.

And then a very interesting session on RFID – radio frequency identificication – – looking at the underlying technology and it’s applications, particularly in supermarkets with a very interesting case study shared on the use of RFID by Metro – the biggest german (and possibly european) supermarket chain – which was awarded the german Big Brother Award last year. (

The final session was on the issue of exchange of passenger name records between european airlines and the US authorities – another high profile issue which many of you would be aware of.

All of the presentations were interesting and there was a great degree of openness in the exchanges between different people – but one of the most interesting for me was from gus hosein (from Privacy International) on the disturbing trend we see in europe – whereby although ‘bad ideas’ (such as data retention, biometric passports, exchange of passenger data) are often initiatived by the US – they are often taken up (possibly after some initial opposition and debate) by the european union and made worse.

A good background paper on this can be found here:[theme]=Border%20and%20Travel%20Surveillance – ‘What is wrong with Europe’


Everyone remarked what a useful day it was – from all sides – i commented to a few that it was highly unlikely that you could bring together the equivalent representatives in the UK – you just wouldn’t be able to pull all of the same people together, certainly not in such an informal and inviting space, and certainly not at the initiation of a rights-based local NGO

We finished the work day with a wonderful dinner and drinks at a bar/restaurant by the river, run by colleagues of marek and kaca’s – and spent a nice time talking with the participants more informally.

Most interesting was the spokeswoman from the Czech Data protection agency who has a most remarkable and diverse history of work – who is leading the Czech DPA’s ‘twinning work’ with those in bosnia-herzegovenia who are at the very initial stages of developing data protection legislation

Hopefully, there will be opportunities for the Czech NGOs to continue their work locally, and be involved in regional work that is ongoing in this area.

Congratulations to marek and all of his colleagues for a really great day – and i hope more will come of it..


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