EU: UK parliamentary committee criticises Commission report on PNR
The chair of the Select Committee on the European Union in the House of Lords, Lord Grenfell, has written to the government expressing its strong concerns over the transfer of passenger data (PNR) to the USA and the further uses that will be made of it under the CAPPS II project. The letter is in response to the Commission's Communication an a "Global EU Approach" to PNR data. In the letter Lord Grenfell says that:
"It is unacceptable that the imposition of US legal obligations on EU carriers appears to have given rise to breaches of EC data protection standards, and may conflict with the right to respect for private life contained in the European Convention on Human Rights."
It supports too the position of the EU's Article 29 Working Party on Data Protection and says there is a "clear danger" that it could lead to:
" "generalised surveillance by a third State", a State that is not bound by EU safeguards"
The letter goes on to question whether there can be "informed consent" by passengers as the Commission's report does not deal with what happens to those who refuse to consent. The creation of a "central European entity" to handle demands for passenger details by third states is also questioned - "are you satisfied that the Community has competence to establish such a mechanism?"
The European Commission has agreed that data on EU passengers can be used for testing the CAPPS II system - when no US airlines will supply data because of privacy concerns - and the Committee says that:
"We can see no justification for the data to be used for testing"
The CAPPS II system will pre-screen all passengers by gathering intelligence on them from a unspecified number of state and commercial databases (eg: credit rating, e-mail accounts etc) - this may result in them being refused boarding or being placed on the "yellow" list for questioning or surveillance.
The Committee has asked to be involved at every stage in order to scrutinise the "adequacy" finding by the Commission, the draft international agreement and any other proposal.
1. Lord Grenfell's letter to Lord Filkin (Department of Constitutional Affairs): Full-text (pdf)
2. Communication on Transfer of Air Passenger Name Record (PNR) Data: A Global EU Approach (16.12.03, pdf)
3. See also Statewatch's Observatory on PNR & USA
4. See also Statewatch's Observatory on EU PNR scheme
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