EU works on air passenger deal to track foreign fighters
Feb. 24, 2015
BRUSSELS (AP) — The European Union moved Tuesday to unblock a major legislative logjam holding up the exchange of air passenger information deemed vital to track foreign fighters who could become terrorists.
The EU lawmaker responsible for pushing the process through the European Parliament tabled new proposals with strengthened privacy protection clauses aimed at ending the impasse.
British Conservative Timothy Kirkhope said the revisions respond to concerns that have been expressed.
So-called Passenger Name Record agreements allow authorities to exchange information collected by air carriers about passengers during flight reservation and check in for security purposes.
The EU has PNR deals with the United States, Canada and Australia but an accord on sharing data among its own member countries has been blocked for four years.
France and Belgium in particular say that the system could help halt the flow of fighters heading to Syria and Iraq. Opponents are concerned about how much information is being swept up and how long it is being kept.
Among the new proposals are plans to limit the agreement to terrorism and transnational crime only. Sensitive data would be deleted or masked after 30 days. Access to PNR information would be allowed for five years in terrorism cases.
Each EU member country would appoint a data protection officer to supervise the way the information is used.
PNR data is made up of things like travel dates, travel itinerary, ticket information, or contact and credit card details.
The system would force airlines to provide the authorities with data on people entering or leaving the EU in cases involving suspected terrorism or serious crime.
Given the road block of privacy rights concerns, more than a dozen countries have decided to go it alone and create their own systems.
Kirkhope warned that this approach could lead to "a patchwork of PNR systems with holes in the net, which criminals will exploit, and lower standards of data protection."
The new proposals will be vetted by the parliament's Civil Liberties committee on Thursday, before being debated more widely in a plenary session of the assembly. The process could yet take several months.