EU-US European Parliament report opposes giving passenger data to USA without strict data protection safeguards

European Parliament report opposes giving passenger data to USA without strict data protection safeguards - and says if these are not met by 1 December all data transfers should stop

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A report going before the next meeting of the European Parliament's Committee on Citizens' Right and Freedoms on 29 September says that unless the USA can pass the "adequacy" test for data protection standards on the transfer of passenger data by 1 December 2003 the European Commission should use its powers to stop all transfers of data (under Regulation 2299/89/EC on computerised reservation systems). And further at this date the Commission should start immediate negotiations to set up an international agreement - this in is line with recommendations of the International Conference for Data Protection and Privacy Commissioners in Sydney, 16-19 September, see: Report

Since March the US side say many airlines are giving them direct access to their reservation databases to download passenger information to be security vetted. These bilateral arrangements are in direct conflict with the 1995 Data Protection Directive and the above Regulation. The European Commission, which says that there are at least four issues on which the US proposals do not meet basic "adequacy" needs, is trying to negotiate a settlement: see: Report

The European Parliament's draft report reiterates the key points of difference: 1) the scope is unclear, that is it is not limited to terrorism; 2) access to 39 different PNR (Passenger Name Record) elements "seems excessive and under all circumstances out of proportion"; 3) the retention of data for 6/7 years "seems unjustified" particularly with regard to people "that do not present any risk to the country's security" - the limit under the EC Regulation is 72 hours and archived for maximum of three years with access only for billing disputes; 4) on the undertakings envisaged by the USA which:

"do not only seem insufficient, but do not represent any obligations, nor can they be invoked in a trail neither by the EU nor by the passenger, who, in addition, are not offered any other efficient means of extra-judicial appeal to any independent authorities"

European Parliament: Draft Report (pdf)

On 22 September Asa Hutchinson, US Under Secretary for Border and Transportation Security in the Department of Homeland Security, met with European Commissioner for the Internal Market, Mr Bolkstein, in Brussels. In a question and answer press statement Hutchinson said that seven years was the minimum necessary period, "we're four years apart... I'm confident we can at the end come closer together on our position".

On the scope of any agreement Mr Hutchinson's definition of terrorism seems to be infinitely extendable, for example, he argues it is linked to drugs and money laundering - these may indeed be a "linked" to terrorism in a limited sense but more than 90% plus of drug trafficking and money laundering have nothing to do with terrorism.

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