MEPs back deal to give air passenger data to US

 
Passengers queuing at Heathrow airport Passenger data is already sent to the US - but the new deal is said to tighten controls on its use

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The European Parliament has adopted a controversial bill clarifying US access to personal data about airline passengers in the EU.

MEPs agreed by 409 votes to 226 to let the US Department of Homeland Security see data on the Passenger Name Record (PNR), under strict controls.

Supporters say this is a vital step in the fight against terrorism.

But some fear information could be used for other unspecified purposes which could affect civil rights.

The agreement applies to airlines operating flights between any of the 27 EU countries and the US.

It covers not only European airlines but also any carriers that are "incorporated or storing data" in the EU and operating flights to or from the US.

The new agreement replaces a provisional 2007 EU-US deal, under which PNR data is already transferred to the US authorities.

But that deal was renegotiated, under pressure from the European Parliament, which insisted on firmer privacy safeguards.

The European Commission, which drafts EU law, says the new accord does provide more legal certainty and privacy safeguards.

Anti-terror monitoring

The PNR information includes names, addresses, credit card and phone numbers, but in some circumstances may also include sensitive data on an individual's ethnic origin, meal choices, health, political views or sex life.

The US authorities say they will "employ automated systems to filter and mask out sensitive data from PNR".

Sensitive data "could be used in exceptional circumstances when a person's life is at risk", a European Parliament statement said.

Such data would be accessed only case-by-case and would be permanently deleted 30 days after receipt unless needed for a specific investigation.

The deal says PNR data will be used exclusively to combat terrorism or fund-raising for terrorism, as well as trans-national crimes that incur a jail sentence of three years or more.

Although airlines already collect many details on passengers, from phone and credit card numbers to meal preferences and medical conditions, now they will transfer that data to the US Department of Homeland Security.

Privacy concerns

The BBC's Imogen Foulkes in Strasbourg says many questions remain about how the information will be used, how long the US will keep it, and who else might have access to it.

Some MEPs fear the deal sets a precedent and ask how the EU would respond if China or Russia asked for the same information, our correspondent says.

The European Parliament has approved a PNR deal with Australia and is negotiating one with Canada.

The deal approved on Thursday, which took several years to negotiate, says any passengers who believe their data has been misused will have access to US justice to seek redress.

PNR data will be stored in an active US database for up to five years. After the first six months all information which could be used to identify a passenger will be masked out.

Some MEPs say the proposals leave too many unanswered questions, such as how will the US use this information, how long will it keep the data and who will have access to it?

Dutch Liberal-Democrat MEP Sophie in 't Veld was involved in drafting the proposals but voted against the bill.

"The results of the vote show clearly that there are very strong reservations against this agreement. However, the US made it very clear that a 'no' vote would be answered by suspending visa-free travel to the US," she said.

"Many colleagues - understandably - did not want to make this sacrifice. But it is highly regrettable that the fundamental rights of EU citizens have been bargained away under pressure."

The US ambassador to the EU, William E Kennard, said the vote showed a joint EU-US "commitment to the security of the travelling public".

He said it would "provide legal certainty for airlines and assure travellers that their privacy will be respected".

According to British Conservative MEP Timothy Kirkhope, PNR data was "instrumental" in capturing collaborators of the 7 July 2005 London bombers and the 2008 Mumbai terror attackers.

He said PNR data had also "led to the capture of dozens of murderers, paedophiles and rapists" and "95% of all drug captures in Belgium and 85% in Sweden are caught using PNR data".

 

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  • rate this
    -13

    Comment number 332.

    Without the US we would all be speaking German. Time, I think, for some people to reflect on who are the goodies and who are the baddies are. I certainly don't want to be forced to give up my freedom just because of some old goat beardy religious nutter.

  • Comment number 331.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this
    -2

    Comment number 330.

    @322.DeltaB

    They are not policing the world, just who enters their country as is their right. If you don't like it don't travel to the US.

    Personally I don't recognise the authority of MEP's but have no choice. Each individual country in the EU should have had the choice to decide rather than EU MEP's deciding for everyone.

  • Comment number 329.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • rate this
    +11

    Comment number 328.

    According to British Conservative MEP Timothy Kirkhope, PNR data was "instrumental" in capturing collaborators of the 7 July 2005 London bombers and the 2008 Mumbai terror attackers.
    He said PNR data had also "led to the capture of dozens of murderers, paedophiles and rapists" and "95% of all drug captures in Belgium and 85% in Sweden are caught using PNR data".

    PROVE IT!!!

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 327.

    So it is the Government that creates this situation of war-like fears and
    real enemies while promoting geo-political wars around the World,and then every US citizen/every traveler to/from the US has to pay the price
    for this state-sponsored belligerence.Suspicion is in the eyes of the beholder,as Beauty is,profiling is common but not a "science" at all,
    so airports have become plants for cattle.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 326.

    E mail them instead or Skype them or whatever your Internet preference is.If you dont need to b ethere dont go.If you only need to talk,what is the point?Other than you love your air miles or the newest SCAM.

  • rate this
    -3

    Comment number 325.

    I have flown to the US and other "sensitive" areas many times and have never been asked about my sex life. Though they may have been tipped off by Northwest after a particularly interesting flight to Minneapolis with a good friend...

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 324.

    BBC News: 22nd December, 2012:
    The US government has passed legislation that prohibits men from growing a beard longer than 0.2in long, to allow Homeland Sekurity forces to more easily identify potential terror suspects.
    The Patriotic Facial Hair Act is to be adopted in all of its territories including the EU.
    In other news, the UK has banned Father Christmas & Capt Birdseye has been arrested.

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 323.

    Am not saying the USA is right..But give them credit.It is their country.And they have Politicians who do not hesitate to tell anyone to mind their own business.
    Do you think we will have the opportunity to vote for Politicians like them?

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 322.

    so who made the usa police of the world. was I asleep when this happened. no. so boll%^&*s to the states. i dont recognise any authorithiy with you so dont come near me or i will bite you with my anacist teeth.

  • rate this
    -4

    Comment number 321.

    I'm amazed they don't already have access to this information. It seems obvious enough that every border agency would require it as a normal part of their open border policy. Surely we do too? If not why not.

  • rate this
    -2

    Comment number 320.

    @310

    "I disagree, those quotes were written in a time when 'suicide bombing' was unheard of, plus, the BBC removed an unoffensive post"

    I agree BBC moderation leaves a lot to be desired

    However those quotes was written at a time the Brits was killing/hanging and making war upon 'rebels'

    And the 'rules' was different and can be argued more brutal (no geneva etc) if less 'tech' than today

  • rate this
    +5

    Comment number 319.

    If you don't like what the US are asking for, go to New Zealand instead. Much nicer country, much nicer people – and they have Hobbits, Elves, Dwarfs and Ents living there too. I know, I've seen films.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 318.

    bad move

  • rate this
    -7

    Comment number 317.

    @312.TerrD

    Utter nonsense.

    Hitler wasn't famous for implementing a smoking ban - it was systematically murdering millions of people and attempting to conquer Europe.

    Are America planning to invade Europe? How, by accessing more information about people travelling to their country? They are just protecting US citizens.

    Where do people get the time to think of this nonsense?

  • rate this
    -2

    Comment number 316.

    313. Jyra 8MINUTES AGO 298. krokodil

    We will educate you.

  • rate this
    -4

    Comment number 315.

    311.Alan T

    Well, at the current state of things I'm more relaxed than you about this, because we have the counterbalancing power of the media to curb state excesses in this area. However, I agree that if we got a Stalin .....problem.
    ____

    But Stalin was a Marxist and therefore a good Leftie, couldn't possibly be any problems with that!?

    .

  • rate this
    +21

    Comment number 314.

    The U.S was hit once, admittedly badly, and the rest of the world has been made to suffer for more than a decade. These measures won't eliminate terrorism but they will keep lots of people in the "security" industry employed. Let's not kid ourselves that we're in any way different now to the sort of intrusive snooping we used to criticise the East Germans and old Soviet bloc for.

  • rate this
    +5

    Comment number 313.

    298. krokodil
    "The supine, liberal, paranoid rump of HYS is out in force.
    I say barcodes all round.... you will be just a number.
    I cannot wait."

    The supreme leader has deemed that your barcode does not fit the norm expected by themselves or the leadership. You will be exterminated at dawn. We are sorry if this is inconvenient, but you have nothing to hide.

 

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