On February 21st, an article published by The Intercept reports that a leaked report drawn up by the national police forces of 10 EU Member States, led by Austria, calls for the introduction of EU legislation to introduce and interconnect facial recognition databases in every EU Member State. It reports that, based on previous data-sharing arrangements, the new facial recognition network might be connected in the future to similar databases in the U.S. The leaked report also calls for Europol to play a role in exchanging facial recognition and other biometric data with non-EU states.
Within the framework of European mutual assistance in the fight against cross-border crime, terrorism or illegal migration, EU countries have already set up a system under the Prüm Treaty that operates on the basis of information sharing. Moreover, as a European Parliament document published in 2018 shows, this system explicitly provides for the possibility of developing data sharing for facial recognition. Thus, the idea would be to broaden the scope of the Prüm system.
This project shows the fundamental importance of databases, their constitution, access, sharing and control, in any debate concerning the use of facial recognition technologies by the police.