Feeds

US and EU stitch up airline passenger data deal

And data protection law

5 things you didn’t know about cloud backup

European data protection authorities are choking on their baguettes after seeing the detail of the data-sharing agreement the EU signed with the US on Friday. The passenger name record (PNR) agreement was presented as a formality that had been passed by the respective administrations without so much as a hiccup. But it's proving hard to swallow.

On the face of it, the agreement secured the legal basis for the US to collect personal information about anyone who flies there from Europe. The European Commission, which negotiated the agreement, wanted to ensure European airline passengers were treated fairly after their personal information was collected by US authorities conducting anti-terrorist investigations.

European data protection law prevents data being sent to another country that doesn't have equivalent protections. That's made the old PNR agreement (which was scrapped on a technicality in June by the European Court of Justice) a bone of contention in Brussels, because the US has no equivalent protection.

The new agreement was supposed to have guaranteed the same level of protection, which was in effect a gentleman's agreement, in which the US promised to play ball. The EC said it "trusted" the US would honour the deal.

Indeed, Jonathan Faull, director general of the European Commission directorate for Justice, Freedom and Security, after securing the new agreement last Friday, told journalists that it offered "comparable" protections. The Commission statement on the matter said it held the US to ensuring "equivalent" protection.

But equivalent protections have not been secured, it was revealed in a letter sent by the US Department of Homeland Security to Faull and Irma Ertman, lead negotiator for the European Council's Finnish Presidency, on Friday, after the agreement was struck.

European data protection authorities said they were "amazed" when they saw the letter yesterday because it watered down the new agreement so that it was even weaker than the last.

The contradiction reflects a split in Europe over how well people's personal data should be protected from abuse by the authorities. On the one hand, the data protection authorities and the European Parliament think the US is taking liberties with our data, while they are trying to preserve our liberties with data protection law.

On the other hand, the European Council of Ministers and the Commission are prepared to accept a lower level of protection, at least when striking agreements about sharing data with other countries. It is worth noting that Faull announced on Friday that the EC is planning its own PNR regime, which will collect information about people travelling into Europe from abroad.

Still, the new agreement was only meant to be a stopgap until a proper compromise could be negotiated. The EU purports to covet its data protection law, which states roughly that any data collected about someone should be taken for good reason, only for the specified purpose and only for as long as is reasonably needed.

The US letter shows how the European position has weakened and perhaps gives an indication of how the final agreement, should one be wrought before the new one runs out next June, might be balanced.

The letter, drafted by Stuart Baker, assistant Secretary to the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS), states how the US will interpret the agreement just signed. The old provisions that prevented it sharing data with other agencies have been thrown out. As well as US border control, the FBI, CIA and unspecified other agencies will get access to the data.

The US proposes trawling through passenger data to seek out suspicious-looking characters if it doesn't have a clear idea who it's looking for. It commits to do this "judiciously and with proportionality", though there is no US law to ensure that it does, and the DHS has already announced its intention to share data between civil and security databases.

5 things you didn’t know about cloud backup

More from The Register

next story
6 Obvious Reasons Why Facebook Will Ban This Article (Thank God)
Clampdown on clickbait ... and El Reg is OK with this
Mozilla's 'Tiles' ads debut in new Firefox nightlies
You can try turning them off and on again
No, thank you. I will not code for the Caliphate
Some assignments, even the Bongster decline must
Banking apps: Handy, can grab all your money... and RIDDLED with coding flaws
Yep, that one place you'd hoped you wouldn't find 'em
TROLL SLAYER Google grabs $1.3 MEEELLION in patent counter-suit
Chocolate Factory hits back at firm for suing customers
Primetime precrime? Minority Report TV series 'being developed'
I have to know. I have to find out what happened to my life
Ex-IBM CEO John Akers dies at 79
An era disrupted by the advent of the PC
prev story

Whitepapers

Gartner critical capabilities for enterprise endpoint backup
Learn why inSync received the highest overall rating from Druva and is the top choice for the mobile workforce.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Rethinking backup and recovery in the modern data center
Combining intelligence, operational analytics, and automation to enable efficient, data-driven IT organizations using the HP ABR approach.
Consolidation: The Foundation for IT Business Transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.
Next gen security for virtualised datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.