Privacy International report on transfer of PNR data to USA

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Report on Transfers of Air Passenger Data to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security:

Report discloses covert EU strategy to establish regime of global travel surveillance

Negotiations by the European Commission described as "systematic deception and subterfuge".

2nd February 2004, For immediate release

The human rights watchdog Privacy International today published a detailed report on covert actions by the European Commission intended to undermine the privacy rights of air travellers.

The report is the most comprehensive investigation yet published on negotiations between the US Department of Homeland Security and the Commission over the mandatory transfer to the US of files on all EU air passengers.

The report has been released in association with European civil rights groups Statewatch and the European Digital Rights Initiative (EDRi). It includes a commentary from the American Civil Liberties Union, voicing its concerns regarding the action of the U.S. government, while also raising their concern about the overstepping done by the EU.

A demand by the US for EU passenger data has provoked widespread concern in Europe. The Commission pledged to undertake hard-line negotiations to appease the US while also protecting Europe's cherished privacy rights.

However the Privacy International report provides damning evidence that the Commission has engaged in a process of systematic deception and subterfuge in the latter stage of negotiations. Not only has it allowed key privacy rights to be extinguished in a deal struck with the US last December, but it has also failed to disclose its own intention to establish a more extensive regime in the EU. The proposed EU surveillance system will be used not only for purposes of anti-terrorism, but also for immigration, law enforcement and customs.

The Commission has also been silent about its pivotal role in plans to establish a global air travel surveillance system similar to the one being built by the US.

The report's principal author, Dr Gus Hosein, Senior Fellow at Privacy International, said: "This is a case of opportunism by the Commission. The EU is can blame the U.S. for an admittedly unjust law, but then going further than the U.S. to establish a global system of surveillance of movement."

Privacy International has expressed its concern and anger at the actions of the Commission. It urges the European Parliament to conduct a comprehensive investigation into the affair, with a view to taking legal action against the Commission.

Privacy International's Director, Simon Davies, warned that the Commission had overstepped its mandate and had breached the trust of European citizens. "The European Parliament and the people of Europe have been deceived by the Commission. A full-scale investigation is now necessary. We believe legal action should be taken against the Commission to ensure that this dangerous subterfuge does not occur in the future", he said.

The report is available in pdf format at:


- Simon Davies of Privacy International can be reached for comment on 07958 466 552 (from the UK) or on (+44) 7958 466 552 (from outside the UK). Email Dr Gus Hosein can be reached on 07970 462 041 (from the UK) or (+44) 7970 462 041 (from outside the UK). Email

- Privacy International (PI) is a human rights group formed in 1990 as a watchdog on surveillance by governments and corporations. PI is based in London, and has an office in Washington, D.C. Together with members in 40 countries, PI has conducted campaigns throughout the world on issues ranging from wiretapping and national security activities, to ID cards, video surveillance, data matching, police information systems, and medical privacy, and works with a wide range of parliamentary and inter-governmental organisations such as the European Parliament, the House of Lords and UNESCO.

1.See 2.2.04: Statewatch: Full-text of EU-US agreement on the exchange of PNR

2. See Statewatch's Observatory on PNR & USA
3. See Statewatch's Observatory on EU PNR scheme

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