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Irish concerns block Israel data sharing deal

EU stops proposed agreement which would grant Israel access to data on EU citizens.

Image: Julien Behal/PA Wire/Press Association Images

THE EUROPEAN COMMISSION has halted a proposal allowing Israeli authorities access to data on EU citizens, following Ireland’s objections.

The deal would have given Israel permission to view potentially sensitive information.

Minister Dermot Ahern told RTÉ’s Lunchtime programme that Ireland’s concerns centred on the use of Irish passports in the assassination of Hamas leader Mahmoud al-Mabhouh in Dubai last January.

Irish passports

“Our information very strongly is that something very untoward happened in relation to our passports, and other nation states’ [passports].”

“The information was gleaned illegally from Irish passports,” he said, adding that this was done by agents on behalf of the Israeli state.

Ireland, Australia and Britain expelled Israeli diplomats as a political gesture in retaliation for the use of falsified passports by the assassins.

Gaps in Israel’s data protection

Ahern said that Ireland had looked in more detail at the existing data agreements, and had discovered that manual processing was not covered by data protection legislation in Israel.

This could “possible include the transcribing of passport details by hand”, the minister said.

Although Israel had indicated its intention to extend its data protection laws to cover manually collected information, Ahern said they had not yet done so, “and the European Commission accepted that today.”

The minister conceded that although the proposal was pulled before it was voted on, it could still pass when it does come to a vote.

“This probably will go through, but we have raised queries about the inadequacy of Israeli data protection legislation” in relation to data protection laws across Europe, he said.

The Minister for Justice said that Israel’s data protection commissioner is not held “at arm’s length” from the government, but is based in the ministry of justice. Ireland’s data protection commissioner is an independent office.

The European Commission said it would formally withdraw the application to recognise Israel’s data protection as being equal to the EU’s. Ireland’s concerns will have to be addressed before the proposal proceeds again.

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