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Brussels downbeat on US passenger snoop plan

PNR deal yet to take off

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Concerns include that data about European airline passengers would be collected for purposes for US interests other than merely fighting terrorism and organised crime, would be used to create database profiles and "risk scores" that would determine the way people were treated by the system, and that this data would be shared widely with other US departments and that it would be kept for 40 years. Europeans also have no course of redress should they discover the system contains incorrect data.

Jonathan Faull, lead PNR negotiator for the European Commission, told the Parliament that Baker wrote with assurances on 15 December that the data protection provisions the Europeans had imposed on the US in the last PNR agreement would be imposed on European data stored in the ATS as well.

"Assistant secretary Baker of the DHS confirmed clearly that the ATS in no way supersedes or alters the agreement signed in October," he said, insisting also that there would be a PNR agreement.

However, those in Brussels pushing for the protection of data about European citizens from the US, are as sceptical of Baker's assurances now as they were last October when he hit them with the US's interpretation of the interim agreement. They don't believe it had any legal standing. It was merely an agreement between the US and EU executives anyway. Open Skies, which as a treaty will be debated in Congress and the European Parliament, will be taken seriously - and privacy campaigners are for now very worried about it.

MEP's are yet hopeful. Sophie Int-Veld, the Dutch MEP acting as rapporteur for the Parliament on the PNR talks, told The Register before the hearing that shifting sands in the US Congress would lead to greater co-operation between the houses on transatlantic data sharing arrangements like PNR. They've both got problems reining in their executives, apparently. Their co-operation on privacy will become more important as fledgling talks for an over-arching transatlantic data protection agreement progress. Till now, the Commission has kept the Parliament at arms length. MEPs will be in Washington for a pow-wow on their mutual problems in April.®

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