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Lawful profiling – how?

At a hearing on « ethnic profiling in Europe », organised by the Equality Committee, the rapporteur Boriss Cilevics (Latvia, SOC) stressed the importance of a clear definition of the conditions under which profiling can be lawful.

As to the role of artificial intelligence (AI) he cautioned that AI builds on existing data, disproportionate representation and stereotypes, and as a result, these would be further perpetuated.

« Ethnic profiling is the use by law enforcement of race, ethnicity, religion or national origin as the basis for suspicion in directing discretionary law enforcement actions - instead of individual conduct or objective evidence as the rule of law would require. In short, ethnic profiling occurs when people are targeted because of who they are and not what they have done, » Tamás Kádár, Deputy Director of Equinet (European Network of Equality Bodies) stressed. Aydan Iyigüngör of the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights confirmed that « profiling should never be based solely or mostly on protected characteristics. »

Such protected grounds include sex, race, colour, ethnic or social origin, genetic features, language, religion or belief, political or any other opinion, membership of a national minority, property, birth, disability, age and sexual orientation.

For profiling to be lawful, it was not only indispensable to fight unconscious bias, but also to hold officers in charge of Law Enforcement and Border Management to be accountable, experts stressed. Appropriate human rights training, knowledge of data protection and monitoring standards were fundamental in this respect. Finally, the experts presented a series of promising practices in member states in the fields of research, legal casework, engagement with law enforcement, awareness raising and political leadership.

The rapporteur is due to present his report on « Ethnic profiling in Europe: a matter of concern » to the Committee in spring 2020.