Major Department Ordered To Delete Data “Black Hole” With Personal Data Of Millions Stored

( The European Union’s most powerful security agency will have to delete most of its vast store of personal data after the EU’s data protection watchdog determined the data was collected unlawfully.

The European Data Protection Supervisor determined that Europol collected sensitive data hacked from encrypted phone services that included data from asylum seekers never involved in any crime.

According to internal documents, Europol’s cache of data contains at least 4 petabytes of information which is the equivalent of three million CD-Roms. Data protection advocates argued that the volume of data on Europol’s systems amounts to mass surveillance, turning Europol into the European equivalent of the US National Security Agency.

Included in Europol’s vast store of information are data on approximately 250,000 current or former terror and serious crime suspects as well as the people these suspects came into contact with. The information was accumulated from a series of data dumps from national police authorities over the last six years.

The European Data Protection Supervisor has ordered Europol to erase any data it has held for over six months and has given the police agency one year to sort out what it can lawfully keep on file.

The EU home affairs commission, however, said the European Data Protection Supervisor’s legal concerns will create serious challenges to Europol’s ability to fulfill its duties.

For its part, Europol has denied any wrongdoing and believes the EDPS could be interpreting the rules in an impractical way. The agency said it has tried to work with the EDPS to find a compromise between keeping the citizens of the EU safe and secure while at the same time “adhering to the highest standards of data protection.”

Headquartered in the Hague, Europol was founded to operate as a coordinating body for national police forces within EU member countries. After the 2015 terror attack at the Bataclan theater in Paris, Europol has been pushed by some member states as a solution to terrorism concerns, encouraging the security agency to harvest data on multiple fronts.