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Proposal would allow search of asylum seeker’s computers
Migration secretary Theo Francken has come under fire for his proposal to allow authorities to request access to computers and other digital devices of asylum seekers. Belgium’s Privacy Commission is critical not only of the bill itself but also that it was not consulted when it was drafted.
The proposal is up for a vote by the federal Chamber on Thursday. It would allow immigration authorities to ask asylum seekers for access to their digital devices, including social media profiles. According to Francken, this would allow authorities to confirm information provided by the asylum seekers.
If passed, the bill would only allow the request to be made; because of existing privacy laws, asylum seekers would have the right to refuse the request, confirmed Francken.
The Privacy Commission, however, pointed out that asylum seekers would feel intimidated by the request and comply so as not to hurt their chances of approval of their asylum applications. “A refusal could have negative consequences on the decision to offer international protection,” Caroline De Geest of the Privacy Commission told Bruzz. “So the refugees’ freedom to refuse is under pressure.”
De Geest was also concerned that Francken’s department did not ask advice from the Privacy Commission before drafting the bill, which she says is missing some crucial details, such as if any information found would be archived and for how long. “It’s quite strange that Francken’s cabinet did not ask for our input,” she said. “Legally, it is crucial that you ask for such advice if a bill threatens to compromise privacy.”