EU plans bigger exchange of air passenger data

Planes at Frankfurt airport - file pic
Image caption Airport security could be boosted through access to data on suspected criminals

The EU plans to expand transfers of air passenger data in a drive to prevent terrorism and other serious crimes such as drug trafficking.

In future all airlines flying to and from destinations in the EU will have to transfer passenger data to national authorities on request, the plan says.

The US, Canada and Australia already get such data from the EU.

The European Commission proposals will be studied by the European Parliament and EU governments before becoming law.

The Commission stresses that stringent safeguards will be in place to protect privacy, in line with European human rights standards.

"Common EU rules are necessary to fight serious crime such as drug smuggling and people trafficking as well as terrorism, and to ensure that passengers' privacy is respected and their rights fully protected in all member states," said the EU Commissioner for Home Affairs, Cecilia Malmstroem.

The proposals are likely to be amended - perhaps substantially - as lengthy negotiations will take place before they become law.

Last year Euro MPs got extra privacy safeguards incorporated into a deal allowing US anti-terror investigators to check data on European bank transactions.

In the new airline data package the Commission proposes that:

  • Passenger Name Record (PNR) data for international flights will be transferred from the carriers' reservation systems to a dedicated unit in the EU country of arrival or departure
  • The data transfers will only take place on request - the national authorities will not have direct access to the airlines' databases
  • The system will apply to international flights to and from countries outside the EU - not flights within the EU or domestic flights
  • PNR data will be kept for 30 days after a flight, in the dedicated unit, after which the passenger's name must be deleted, but the anonymous data can be stored for up to five years
  • No sensitive personal data, such as religious or political opinions or ethnic origin, can be transferred by airlines.

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