Feeds

EC broke rules over passenger data, Parliament told

As data sharing deal nears renewal

The Essential Guide to IT Transformation

The European Commission "clearly breached" its obligations when it agreed a passenger data sharing scheme with the US, the European Parliament has been told. The opinion was given just as negotiations on a new deal are begun.

It also emerged that the US does not believe that it needs a new data sharing deal in order to demand details on Europeans flying into the US.

Passenger details, known as the passenger name record (PNR), are passed to US authorities by airlines in a deal brokered by the European Commission but long opposed by the European Parliament as a breach of European privacy and data protection rules.

Spiros Simitis, a data protection expert which advises the commission, told a Parliament hearing this week that the commission has "clearly breached its obligations" in the deal it cut with the US over PNR. The law says that in order to obtain and process personal data, an authority must state an exact purpose for it.

"Undefined terms like 'terrorism' and 'public interest' are completely counterproductive and inadmissible for any functioning data protection rules," he said.

The current, temporary deal expires in July and negotiations between the commission and the US on a new, long-term deal have just started. One negotiator involved in the process, Hans Jurgen Forster, told the Parliament that "people expected the negotiations to be difficult and they are".

He said the US is even beginning to refuse to concede the need for a deal at all. "The US doubt the need for a new PNR agreement. They even think a short extension of the existing interim agreement is unnecessary," he said.

There is a possibility that an open skies agreement on transatlantic air travel, which has some security provisions, could be used by the US as a replacement deal to the PNR agreement, warned some MEPs.

The Parliamentary session was a hearing of the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs. That committee's chair, Greek MEP Stavros Lambrinidis, said he was concerned not only about the volume of data being passed to the US, but about what it is used for. "The transfer of PNR data has only been scrutinised by the Parliament once, and we were critical about it. We ask to evaluate a future agreement."

Some MEPs said they wanted the new system to include greater controls over European data, including a switch of the data transfer system from being one in which the US has access to any of the data it wants to one which demands that it request any information.

"This would include switching to a 'push' system, so that US officers should have to request data specifically required, case-by-case rather than simply being granted access to the full database and reducing the number of PNR data fields that they can check," said a Parliament statement.

"The switch to the push procedure is urgent, this has been made absolutely clear to the Americans," said Forster. "The US government has indicated a willingness to discuss and draft a list of principles, to see whether additional restrictions to PNR transfer are desirable. The American side is expected to deliver a revised version on the undertakings before we start a second round of negotiations".

Copyright © 2007, OUT-LAW.com

OUT-LAW.COM is part of international law firm Pinsent Masons.

Boost IT visibility and business value

More from The Register

next story
Just TWO climate committee MPs contradict IPCC: The two with SCIENCE degrees
'Greenhouse effect is real, but as for the rest of it ...'
Adam Afriyie MP: Smart meters are NOT so smart
Mega-costly gas 'n' 'leccy totting-up tech not worth it - Tory MP
'Blow it up': Plods pop round for chat with Commonwealth Games tweeter
You'd better not be talking about the council's housing plans
Arrr: Freetard-bothering Digital Economy Act tied up, thrown in the hold
Ministry of Fun confirms: Yes, we're busy doing nothing
ONE EMAIL costs mining company $300 MEEELION
Environmental activist walks free after hoax sent share price over a cliff
Help yourself to anyone's photos FOR FREE, suggests UK.gov
Copyright law reforms will keep m'learned friends busy
Apple smacked with privacy sueball over Location Services
Class action launched on behalf of 100 million iPhone owners
UK government officially adopts Open Document Format
Microsoft insurgency fails, earns snarky remark from UK digital services head
prev story

Whitepapers

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.
The Essential Guide to IT Transformation
ServiceNow discusses three IT transformations that can help CIO's automate IT services to transform IT and the enterprise.
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.
How modern custom applications can spur business growth
Learn how to create, deploy and manage custom applications without consuming or expanding the need for scarce, expensive IT resources.
Build a business case: developing custom apps
Learn how to maximize the value of custom applications by accelerating and simplifying their development.