Sensitive data of passengers to be handed over to US authorities

by Alfie FEATHERSTONE on April 19, 2012

The personal data of millions of airline customers is to be handed to the US after MEPs voted in favour of new laws that it has been claimed will prove vital to successfully tackling terrorism.

Passenger Name Records, including names, addresses, mobile and home phone numbers, and credit card details, in addition to religious meal choices and sensitive health information, are to be shared in the future after the European Parliament passed the controversial bill. The US will store and exploit the data for a period of five years as it investigates terrorism and “transnational crime”, but names are to be removed after just six months. Under tighter access rules, the data will be retained for an additional 10 years.

The vote comes at the end of two years’ worth of wrangling between MEPs and the European Commission, the latter of which proposed the laws. MEPs argued that the laws will both infringe privacy and the civil liberties of Europe’s citizens. A deal struck between Brussels and Washington DC to share PNR data had originally been agreed in 2007 after the discovery of terrorist plots to blow up carriers, including 2006’s “liquid bomb plot”,  which saw three British ringleaders being sentenced to life imprisonment at the conclusion of a courtroom battle.

The deal expired in 2010, which is why the European Commission has faced pressure to start pushing through a permanent deal ever since. In 2011, the US Senate memorably passed a resolution that called for action, with Joe Lieberman, the Homeland Security Committee’s chairman, saying that the US simply can’t accept cutting off data as it is a vital part of the US’ layered defence against terrorism.

Comments on this entry are closed.

Previous post: Giant sandcastle demolished over health and safety fears

Next post: Rhino poached at Prince William proposal refuge