Estonian official: this is a specific issue

PHOTO: Postimees

In Estonia, there is no blanket collection of personal data to be forwarded to US databases; rather, this is an individual case says interior ministry vice chancellor Erkki Koort in written interview to Postimees.

Why, in the fall of 2013, did you sign agreement with USA allowing SDU to operate here?

By Vienna Convention, it is up to country of location to ensure security of embassies. As an embassy is lacking certain capabilities to operate in country of location, security can only be ensured in cooperation with country of location and its laws.

How long before the agreement was entered had US Embassy operated its SDU in Estonia? Who gave them permission for that in Estonia?

These are not operations but prevention of attack against embassy which, pursuant to agreement, first and foremost entails monitoring.

In your estimation – is it legal for SDU to perform secret surveillance and forward personal data of Estonian citizens to USA?

The question casts the activity in a wrong light. To exchange any information, there needs to be legal basis and cause. There can be no blanket forwarding, and uncontrolled, of personal data. Also, the agreement prescribes bilateral data exchange, not unilateral. And it is also important [to note] that this is not a secret surveillance unit but a part of security of the embassy.

Is it ethical, do you think, for Estonian state to help collect data of its citizens for the global SIMAS database?

The question is posed wrongly; Estonia has not allowed blanket collection of data neither its uncontrollable forwarding. The information is exchanged regarding specific incidents, participated by specific individuals.

Why and on what basis does Estonian police hand personal data of our citizens to US Embassy as soon as they apply for it?

State agencies share data with third parties strictly pursuant to law. Suspected attack against a diplomatic representation or danger towards human lives or health is reason enough, doubtless, to exchange data. The question leaves one with the impression like Estonian state agencies would submit data upon initial request. This definitely is not the case.

Do you see a need for change or might the embassy carry on like it does?

As a large part of information has become public or has been obtained by third parties, the system must surely be reviewed. Administration of the work, however, is not the interior ministry’s business. 

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