European Union: How The European Union Uses Data To Prevent Crime

Last Updated: June 8 2016
Article by Donald B. Johnston

It seems to me – although I have no evidence of this – that the European view on privacy differs somewhat from the view in Canada, which in turn differs from the view in the U.S. I have the impression that people in Europe, especially in the U.K., are quite comfortable with the idea of CCTV cameras everywhere, and they may, for no apparent reason, be more trusting of governments. Canadians are often shocked at the extent to which the British, in particular, are okay with being observed by the authorities as they walk about town.

So I've been reading the hot-off-the-press Directive 2016/680 of the European Parliament with interest. The new directive is entitled a Directive "... on the protection of natural persons with regard to the processing of data by competent authorities for the purposes of the prevention, investigation, detection or prosecution of criminal offences or the execution of criminal penalties, and on the free movement of such data, and repealing Council Framework Decision 2008/977/JHA."


That's almost as long as Canada's Anti-Spam Law (CASL) title, which is "An Act to promote the efficiency and adaptability of the Canadian economy by regulating certain activities that discourage reliance on electronic means of carrying out commercial activities, and to amend the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission Act, the Competition Act, the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act and the Telecommunications Act."

The most interesting parts of the new EU directive, at least to me, are the lengthy recitals, a few of which state:

  1. Data protection is a "fundamental right" of people. (When the Europeans say "data protection" they mean something different from "privacy" in the North American sense. The European concern is about the processing of data about people to learn things about them that are non-obvious. In North America, it seems that we have a vaguer notion about "privacy" that primarily revolves around the right to be left alone and not to be invaded, rather than around the right to ensure that there are no dossiers created about us. The term "fundamental right" is found in the E.U. Charter of Fundamental Rights and Freedoms.)
  2. Data protection is related to freedom, security and justice.
  3. Technology threatens the right to protection of personal data.
  4. But the free flow of personal data among authorities (whether European or otherwise) that are responsible for the criminal justice system should be encouraged, even while otherwise protecting personal data and enforcing that protection.
  5. Commercial entities that collect personal data for certain purposes that do not pertain to criminal justice should be permitted to re-purpose those data at the behest of actors in the criminal justice system, but subject to certain written requirements and constraints. (In other words, criminal justice players should be able to go to a bank and get information in the course of an investigation.)
  6. Spy agencies and national security agencies are not bound by this Directive. (That means that it's okay for them to gather personal data, subject to their own mandates and constating regulations.)
  7. Anonymous information is not covered by this Directive.
  8. Public authorities (e.g., taxing authorities) that collect personal information are not to have their databases of personal information interlinked with those of the criminal justice system. Instead, requests for information should follow existing requirements of being in writing, authorized, and ad hoc.
  9. Genetics data are considered personal data and discrimination based on genetic features should in principle be prohibited. Health data is similarly protected.
  10. Collaboration between the E.U. and Interpol should be strengthened by promoting the exchange of personal information, but that exchange must be balanced against personal rights regarding the "automatic processing of personal data".
  11. Processing of personal data must be lawful, fair and transparent, and only for the purposes laid down by law. However, this does not prevent the criminal justice system from carrying out covert investigations or video surveillance for the purposes of the prevention, investigation, detection or prosecution of criminal offences or the execution of criminal penalties, including keeping the public safe from threats, but always in accordance with the law. This is declared to be a necessary and proportionate measure in a democratic society, with due regard for the legitimate interests of the data subjects involved. The right of "fair data processing" is different from the right to a fair trial.
  12. People should be made aware of risks, rules, safeguards and rights in relation to the processing of their personal data and of how to exercise their rights in relation to the processing of their personal data.
  13. The purposes for which the personal data are processed should be explicit and legitimate and determined at the time of the collection of the personal data.
  14. The personal data processed should be adequate and relevant for the purposes. The collection of personal data must not be excessive and data must not be kept longer than necessary for the purposes.
  15. Personal data should be processed only if the purpose of the processing could not reasonably be fulfilled by other means.
  16. Personal data collected must be accurate. Incorrect personal data should not be knowingly shared.
  17. Criminal justice authorities may collect data that extends beyond the amount required for the direct purposes of the prevention, investigation, detection or prosecution of criminal offences or the execution of criminal penalties, if they need to do so in order to understand the criminal activities or make links between criminal offences.
  18. Data collected about persons for the purposes of the administration of criminal justice should distinguish between who is a subject, who is accused, who is convicted, who is a victim, who is a witness, etc.
  19. Consent is not needed for the collection of personal data for the purposes of the prevention, investigation, detection or prosecution of criminal offences or the execution of criminal penalties.
  20. Data pertaining to race should not be used to support a theory that there are separate human races. 
  21. People should be free from "automatic processing" that "profiles" them and they should have the right to challenge any profiling. "Profiling" means any form of automated processing of personal data consisting of the use of personal data to evaluate certain personal aspects relating to a natural person, in particular to analyse or predict aspects concerning that natural person's performance at work, economic situation, health, personal preferences, interests, reliability, behaviour, location or movements. (Think about police "carding" in Canada when you think about this provision.)
  22. People should have the right to know who has collected personal data about them and the purposes of the collection, and the right to lodge a complaint and have the data expunged. If the data controller refuses, then the reasons for the refusal have to be disclosed.

There's a lot more in the background statements that is extremely interesting, but the point is that they shed significant light on the differences in attitude between Canada and Europe when it comes to surveillance and personal information collection for the purposes of the administration of criminal justice. It is my view that the Europeans have given the matter a lot more thought than Canadians have. You need look no further than Bill C-51 (An Act to enact the Security of Canada Information Sharing Act and the Secure Air Travel Act, to amend the Criminal Code, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service Act and the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act and to make related and consequential amendments to other Acts) to understand that this is so.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Donald B. Johnston
In association with
Related Video
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Check to state you have read and
agree to our Terms and Conditions

Terms & Conditions and Privacy Statement (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd and as a user you are granted a non-exclusive, revocable license to access the Website under its terms and conditions of use. Your use of the Website constitutes your agreement to the following terms and conditions of use. Mondaq Ltd may terminate your use of the Website if you are in breach of these terms and conditions or if Mondaq Ltd decides to terminate your license of use for whatever reason.

Use of

You may use the Website but are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the content and articles available (the Content). You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these terms & conditions or with the prior written consent of Mondaq Ltd. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information about’s content, users or contributors in order to offer them any services or products which compete directly or indirectly with Mondaq Ltd’s services and products.


Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the documents and related graphics published on this server for any purpose. All such documents and related graphics are provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers hereby disclaim all warranties and conditions with regard to this information, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. In no event shall Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use or performance of information available from this server.

The documents and related graphics published on this server could include technical inaccuracies or typographical errors. Changes are periodically added to the information herein. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers may make improvements and/or changes in the product(s) and/or the program(s) described herein at any time.


Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.

Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.

If you do not want us to provide your name and email address you may opt out by clicking here .

If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of products and services offered by Mondaq by clicking here .

Information Collection and Use

We require site users to register with Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to view the free information on the site. We also collect information from our users at several different points on the websites: this is so that we can customise the sites according to individual usage, provide 'session-aware' functionality, and ensure that content is acquired and developed appropriately. This gives us an overall picture of our user profiles, which in turn shows to our Editorial Contributors the type of person they are reaching by posting articles on Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) – meaning more free content for registered users.

We are only able to provide the material on the Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) site free to site visitors because we can pass on information about the pages that users are viewing and the personal information users provide to us (e.g. email addresses) to reputable contributing firms such as law firms who author those pages. We do not sell or rent information to anyone else other than the authors of those pages, who may change from time to time. Should you wish us not to disclose your details to any of these parties, please tick the box above or tick the box marked "Opt out of Registration Information Disclosure" on the Your Profile page. We and our author organisations may only contact you via email or other means if you allow us to do so. Users can opt out of contact when they register on the site, or send an email to with “no disclosure” in the subject heading

Mondaq News Alerts

In order to receive Mondaq News Alerts, users have to complete a separate registration form. This is a personalised service where users choose regions and topics of interest and we send it only to those users who have requested it. Users can stop receiving these Alerts by going to the Mondaq News Alerts page and deselecting all interest areas. In the same way users can amend their personal preferences to add or remove subject areas.


A cookie is a small text file written to a user’s hard drive that contains an identifying user number. The cookies do not contain any personal information about users. We use the cookie so users do not have to log in every time they use the service and the cookie will automatically expire if you do not visit the Mondaq website (or its affiliate sites) for 12 months. We also use the cookie to personalise a user's experience of the site (for example to show information specific to a user's region). As the Mondaq sites are fully personalised and cookies are essential to its core technology the site will function unpredictably with browsers that do not support cookies - or where cookies are disabled (in these circumstances we advise you to attempt to locate the information you require elsewhere on the web). However if you are concerned about the presence of a Mondaq cookie on your machine you can also choose to expire the cookie immediately (remove it) by selecting the 'Log Off' menu option as the last thing you do when you use the site.

Some of our business partners may use cookies on our site (for example, advertisers). However, we have no access to or control over these cookies and we are not aware of any at present that do so.

Log Files

We use IP addresses to analyse trends, administer the site, track movement, and gather broad demographic information for aggregate use. IP addresses are not linked to personally identifiable information.


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that Mondaq (or its affiliate sites) are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of these third party sites. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this Web site.

Surveys & Contests

From time-to-time our site requests information from users via surveys or contests. Participation in these surveys or contests is completely voluntary and the user therefore has a choice whether or not to disclose any information requested. Information requested may include contact information (such as name and delivery address), and demographic information (such as postcode, age level). Contact information will be used to notify the winners and award prizes. Survey information will be used for purposes of monitoring or improving the functionality of the site.


If a user elects to use our referral service for informing a friend about our site, we ask them for the friend’s name and email address. Mondaq stores this information and may contact the friend to invite them to register with Mondaq, but they will not be contacted more than once. The friend may contact Mondaq to request the removal of this information from our database.


This website takes every reasonable precaution to protect our users’ information. When users submit sensitive information via the website, your information is protected using firewalls and other security technology. If you have any questions about the security at our website, you can send an email to

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user’s personally identifiable information changes (such as postcode), or if a user no longer desires our service, we will endeavour to provide a way to correct, update or remove that user’s personal data provided to us. This can usually be done at the “Your Profile” page or by sending an email to

Notification of Changes

If we decide to change our Terms & Conditions or Privacy Policy, we will post those changes on our site so our users are always aware of what information we collect, how we use it, and under what circumstances, if any, we disclose it. If at any point we decide to use personally identifiable information in a manner different from that stated at the time it was collected, we will notify users by way of an email. Users will have a choice as to whether or not we use their information in this different manner. We will use information in accordance with the privacy policy under which the information was collected.

How to contact Mondaq

You can contact us with comments or queries at

If for some reason you believe Mondaq Ltd. has not adhered to these principles, please notify us by e-mail at and we will use commercially reasonable efforts to determine and correct the problem promptly.