EU data protection chair calls for US access to passenger details to be postponed

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The Chair of the EU's Article 29 Working Party on data protection, Stefano Rodota, has called for the "Joint Statement" between European Commission and US Customs officials to be postponed "for as long as required in order to finalise a quick formal procedure".

Mr Rodota, in a letter dated 3 March 2003 to the chair of the European Parliament's Committee on Citizens' Freedoms and Rights, Mr Jorge Mollar, said that "many delegations" attending the meeting of the Council of the European Union's Working Party on Aviation on 20 February raised "doubts and concerns in respect of the legal nature, contents or actual force of the Joint Statement". He says that the factual circumstances, of the Joint Statement which allows US Customs to directly access the reservation databases of airlines based in the EU is "devoid of a legal base" and:

"national data protection supervisory authorities and judicial authorities of Member States are not free to apply or not apply national laws merely on the basis of relevant advisability, and it has not yet been clarified how the Joint Statement might provide a sound legal basis to justify an exception to the rule"

and may:

"give rise to claims at national level - which may also be lodged at the request of individual citizens who might apply either to DPAs [data protection authorities] or to judicial authorities if they consider they have suffered damage on account of data transmission"

Documentation and analyses

1. Full-text: Mr Rodota's letter (pdf)

2. Full-text: European Commission/US Customs talks on PNR transmission, Brussels, 17/18 February: Joint Statement (html)

3. Statewatch report 27.2.03: EU Working Party report on passenger data access by USA

4. Full text of : Article 29 Data Protection Working Party: Opinion 6/2002 on transmission of Passenger Manifest Information and other data from Airlines to the United States, adopted 24 October 2002, doc no: 11647/02/EN, WP 66 (pdf).

5. Statewatch report 26.2.03: US Customs to have direct access to EU airlines reservations databases

6. Statewatch report 13.2.03: European Commission caves in to US demands for airline passenger lists

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