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MEPs back air passenger data deal

MEPs back air passenger data deal

Controversial moves giving European air passenger information to America have been approved by MEPs, despite warnings over breaches of privacy.

» Aviation - W | Friday, April 20, 2012 • The Press Association

More than 400 MEPs backed the Passenger Name Records (PNR) agreement - but 226 opposed an accord they claim is not in line with EU data protection requirements.

Tory MEP and keen PNR supporter Timothy Kirkhope said the deal ensured that "extremely valuable" information on terrorists and other serious criminals including traffickers in people could be passed to the US authorities, albeit under strict conditions.

"This agreement is a major step forward for the protection of both passengers' data, and their lives. We cannot under-estimate the value of PNR data in tracking and apprehending people who want to cause us serious harm. PNR data has been instrumental in capturing collaborators of the 7/7 bombers and the Mumbai attackers," said Mr Kirkhope.

"It led to the capture of dozens of murderers, paedophiles and rapists. 95% of all drug captures in Belgium and 85% in Sweden are caught using PNR data."

Under the agreement, which still requires endorsement by EU home affairs ministers, details of EU passengers making transatlantic flight reservations will passed to America's Department of Homeland Security, where it will be governed by data protection rules about its use.

The deal, setting legal conditions for information storage periods, use, data protection safeguards and administrative and judicial redress, replaces a provisional PNR accord in place since 2007.

It allows US authorities to keep the data in an active database for up to five years. But after the first six months, all information which could be used to identify a passenger must be "depersonalised", making the personal elements - names and contact details - invisible to the US officials normally working on the data. After the first five years, the data goes to a 'dormant database' for up to 10 years, with stricter access requirements for US officials.

EU Home Affairs Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom said the deal provided legal certainty for air carriers and respected EU citizens' right to privacy. "At the same time, it fully meets the security needs of the USA and the EU, using data of passengers to fight serious transnational crime and terrorism," she said.

Lib Dem MEP Sarah Ludford said: "This agreement is not perfect, but it's a great deal better than the existing framework and, crucially, than any of the alternatives."

The Press Association

Tags: European air,
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