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Europe rules against general passenger data slurp

Why do we hand over data on every passenger?

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The European Data Protection Supervisor has taken a view against Passenger Name Record transfers, which obliges airlines to hand over the personal data they hold on every passenger entering or leaving the European Union.

This includes names, addresses, emails and other contact details which are handed over in the name of (defeating)terrorism.

The EDPS said the proposal was better than the original offered in 2007. But it said that any massive collection of data must follow the necessity principle - that such a huge data hoard produced a useful result. Current PNR proposals do not do this.

The watchdog said: "In the EDPS' view, the current Proposal and accompanying Impact Assessment fail to demonstrate the necessity and the proportionality of a system involving a large-scale collection of PNR data for the purpose of a systematic assessment of all passengers."

Peter Hustinx, EDPS, also questioned the need for such a scheme: "Air passengers' personal data could certainly be necessary for law enforcement purposes in targeted cases, when there is a serious threat supported by concrete indicators. It is their use in a systematic and indiscriminate way, with regard to all passengers, which raises specific concerns."

An ICO spokesperson said: “We recognise that personal data can be necessary in the fight against terrorism and serious crime. However, any proposal that intrudes into the privacy of individuals should evidence its necessity, be proportionate and include appropriate data protection safeguards and measures.

“This is an EU-wide proposal and we are working with our EU data protection colleagues on a collective response.”

Its European counterpart meanwhile said data should not be held for more than 30 days, it should be better protected especially as regards transfer to third countries, and the list of data included should be reduced. Finally it recommended an evaluation of the system to show the number of people convicted, not just prosecuted, on the basis of their PNR.

The EDPS statement on the future of PNR is available here. Airlines first began handing over all passenger details to US authorities in the wake of the 9/11 attacks.

The EDPS has already queried this process. It suggests Europe should sort out its internal rules on such data transfers and use these as a basis to make agreements with countries outside the EU. ®

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