Ever since INTERPOL rolled out its I-link system in 2009, the organization has faced the issue of how to control those member countries that submit Red Notices in violation of INTERPOL’s rules and governing texts. Remember that I-link allows member countries to directly upload Red Notices for immediate circulation to all other member countries, without first requiring a check for validity by the Secretary General of INTERPOL.  Naturally, this capability increased the efficiency of information sharing between member countries.  

It also increased the ability, and probably the instances, of misuse by member countries.  In his 2012 speech to INTERPOL’s General Assembly, the Chairman of the CCF, Billy Hawkes, noted that the increased capabilities of the member countries was not without additional obligations:

But with increased authority comes increased responsibility. The Commission has been concerned to ensure that NCBs have the tools to discharge this new responsibility in a way that respects the rights of individuals. This is a responsibility of all personnel of NCBs. But the role of the Data Protection Officer is particularly important. It is essential that these officers have the knowledge and independence to challenge inappropriate uses of the I-Link system and of INTERPOL’s tools.

. . . NCBs and their Data Protection Officers are the first line of defence in relation to data protection.

Mr. Hawkes made clear that the role of the Data Protection Officer within the NCB is not the mere “rubber-stamping” of Red Notice requests that are submitted by a member country’s various law enforcement agencies, but to challenge inappropriate uses of INTERPOL’s tools.

Given the number of erroneously, or otherwise wrongly, issued Red Notices that come to our attention even by anecdote, it would be interesting to know how many Red Notice requests are challenged by NCB officials every year.  I don’t think it would be unfair to guess that that number is relatively low, and much lower than it ought to be.

As always, comments and questions are welcomed.