Europol, the law enforcement organization of the European Union, has long been at the center of attention of privacy advocates over its collection of information for citizen surveillance. However, it seems that some government bodies also feel the same now. The European Data Protection Supervisor (EDPS) ordered Europol to delete a significant chunk of citizen-related data.
EDPS has given Europol a year to review its databases and remove data on EU citizens. The order specifies the citizens’ information that Europol cannot link to a criminal investigation in particular. Moreover, the total data stored in Europol’s databases is approximately 4 petabytes in size, according to The Guardian.
Europol’s Data Black Hole
Essentially, Europol has information equivalent to hundreds of billions of pages of printed text. It also includes data on hundreds of thousands of terror and crime suspects and their networks. EDPS’ decision follows an older inquiry into Europol back in 2019 regarding its wrongful storing of personal user data. A year later, the EU watchdog admonished Europol for storing information on individuals that hadn’t been linked to criminal activity.
“Europol has not complied with the EDPS’ requests to define an appropriate data retention period to filter and to extract the personal data permitted for analysis under the Europol Regulation,” the EDPS said in an announcement on Monday. “This means that Europol was keeping this data for longer than necessary, contrary to the principles of data minimization and storage limitation enshrined in the Europol Regulation.”
In the absence of a conventional response from Europol, EDPS has now enforced its action. Consequently, the EU watchdog has given Europol a year to sort through its existing databases. This process includes determining which data it can keep and deleting any data it doesn’t categorize within six months.
Deleting large amounts of information will surely cause a void in Europol’s databases due to privacy concerns. However, that only depends on how much it abides by EDPS. The internet already has names corresponding to the mass deletion, and it has the name “data black hole.”