Tuesday 25 September 2012

Reports of US breaching EU PNR Agreement

The transfer of Passenger Name Record Data - the information you hand over to airlines when you book a flight - from EU airlines to the US government has been a controversial issue in Brussels, with the transfers taking place for a decade on one basis or another without a satisfactory agreement in place to regulate it.

Earlier this year the European Parliament ratified an agreement with the US to regulate - and make legal in the EU - the transfer of this personal data to the US government for anti-terrorism and crime fighting purposes. I was against this agreement because it is spectacularly disproportionate and infringed privacy rights: data can be held for far too long (over a decade) for practically any purpose whatsoever. Sadly Sophie In't Veld's report advising rejection of the agreement was voted down in Committee and the Parliament ratified the agreement in plenary.

However it seems that the US hasn't been satisfied with even this gift of a treaty, with reports that the US government has been collecting data on people on flights that do not take off or land in the US, in contravention of the agreement. The S&D Group in the European Parliament has called on the Justice Commissioner Malmstrom to account for this before the LIBE Committee in Parliament:

"S&D spokesperson on civil liberties, justice and home affairs, Claude Moraes MEP, said:
"The media reports show that the US may be requesting data which falls outside the scope of the EU-US PNR agreement. We signed up to the agreement on strict conditions and we need clear answers if EU citizens' data is being collected contrary to spirit of the agreement.
"If our citizens' data is being collected for flights simply going through US airspace, then this could be against EU data protection laws. We are taking this matter very seriously and that is why the S&Ds have requested that Commissioner Malmström comes to the civil liberties committee to give MEPs a full picture of the situation regarding US collection of EU citizens' PNR data.""

It would not be the first time the Parliament has been disappointed by poor results from bad treaties.

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