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
    0

    Comment number 352.

    @348.U123456789

    Who cares? Probably no-one.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 351.

    Dearly Departed: The US was different in 1945. Different mindset, morality and principles. The cycles go from Liberal to Dictatorship. Today, it is fascism (the merge of State and Corporate powers) and we call it Democracy. Fascism was not an ugly word sixty years ago. People thought that it was new and revolutionary, but by the time they learned what it entailed, they were all dead!

  • rate this
    -2

    Comment number 350.

    344.
    The Rockabilly Red
    8 Minutes ago

    Re 332: You need to watch a few less films. The truth is that without the Russians, we would all be speaking German. 7/8s of all Nazi divisions were deployed on the Eastern Front.

    OK I admit I got it wrong OK. Without the US we'd all be speaking either German or Russian. Feel better now do we ?

  • rate this
    +5

    Comment number 349.

    Terrorism - the latest excuse for the removal of the last remnants of democracy and the undermining of human rights by those looking for any excuse to promote the greed of the few over the needs, wishes and aspirations of the many.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 348.

    .

    331.U14761436

    This comment has been referred for further consideration. Explain.
    ___

    There was nothing wrong with the comment, it even shows me in a bad light, it was a poorly written, I tried to correct someone's grammar. Ironic really!

    .

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 347.

    I thought it was 2012 not 1984!

  • rate this
    +8

    Comment number 346.

    Two things. 1. Any arrangement this country makes should be two way not just one way as with extradition. 2. Whoever it is that "runs" the show should find some other way to combat "terrorism" without having access to every last piece of information about it's citizens.
    Why? They WILL abuse it. No doubt about it. I'm probably stuffed for writing this.

  • rate this
    +6

    Comment number 345.

    I will do my best never to fly to the USA again.

  • rate this
    +5

    Comment number 344.

    Re 332: You need to watch a few less films. The truth is that without the Russians, we would all be speaking German. 7/8s of all Nazi divisions were deployed on the Eastern Front.

  • rate this
    +8

    Comment number 343.

    Once again our own elected leaders sell us out. The EU has no access to US records but we let them snoop on our own people.

    Why does Europe have such weak leaders and what did the US promise these politicians in return for voting against their own people ?

    I am ashamed to be European.

  • rate this
    +7

    Comment number 342.

    As usual, the US wants to implement more Big Brother style information gathering on foreign nationals under the false guise of trying to combat paranoia-stoked non-existent terrorism. Shame they were not too interested in stopping those within their own borders that were all too happy to provide funds for the Provisional IRA to wage a real terrorist war in the UK for over 30 years.

  • rate this
    -7

    Comment number 341.

    @333.TerrD

    Theres a long way to go from smoke-free zones and lightbulbs to nazi Germany - I'm not worried yet! I think you're getting a bit ahead of yourself.

    I just think the US are trying to control who enters thier country protecting US citizens. I applaude them for it. Its a pity us in the UK aren't as careful.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 340.

    I have never Voted,and trust ME on this,I never will.None of them will ever know what they are doing,as,
    the World is too big for their EGOs.Religion is a fallicy and im sorry to say this,it is completly clear in my mind.They cant see past their own GREED.I know this is FACT!

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 339.

    What the US and the UK want, they get, one way or another.
    And further it would appear that they are not at all concerned about how they go about getting it!

  • rate this
    +8

    Comment number 338.

    I was just wondering what is the difference between Nothing to hide and Nowhere to hide.

    Discuss.

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 337.

    One important point is that who has access to this information.It seems pretty comprehensive eg political views,sexual orientation etc. Rather useful beyond the immediate terrorist threat. I don't trust this.

  • rate this
    -2

    Comment number 336.

    Just so long as it is politically correct and treats everybody the same I support it, even if it means long queues, frisking 5 year olds going on holiday, huge expense and less time spent on intelligence led profiling of passengers.

  • rate this
    +13

    Comment number 335.

    Another step in our sleepwalking towards totalitarian states... the terrorists have won if we all live in fear and our own Governments use that fear to control us...

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 334.

    I fear the US and this countrys lapdog response to them more than I fear some beared ignorant terrorists.

    Will any of them ever grow up!

  • rate this
    +11

    Comment number 333.

    Bladesman: It is documented fact. Fascism was not created overnight. Peoples' rights were chopped away gradually. No Smoking, No gatherings in public spaces, extradition based on suspicion, arrest without charge, interrogation, house searches etc. Today we are even told what kind of lightbulbs we can use.

 

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