European Parliament wades into airline passenger data debate

The European Parliament is continuing its war against the collection of airline travellers’ data.

It has waded into talks between the European Union and the US, calling the sharing of passenger name records (PNR) initiative, which includes personal information about all passengers coming into and leaving the EU, including phone numbers, e-mail addresses, travel itineraries and billing information, as “intrusive.”

The Commission believes that by storing and collecting this data it could be used to fight terrorism and serious international crime. It wants to form an agreement with the US, which will see sharing of such data and has already stressed that this would be done under a high level of security.

However the European Parliament isn’t happy about this. It’s demanding that the European Commission supply evidence that the storage of this data is helpful. It is concerned that the data, if mislaid or placed into the wrong hands could be used for data mining or profiling.

In a statement it said: “Personal data protection has been a difficult area for EU-US relations recently, as in the case of the agreement on banking data transfers (Swift report). A general EU-US data protection agreement is now under discussion, as is a new agreement on the sharing of passenger flight data. Parliament will have a right of veto on both accords.

“MEPs stressed that PNR data should in no circumstances be used for data mining or profiling.

“MEPs reiterate their call to the Commission to provide factual evidence that the collection, storage and processing of PNR data is necessary” in this respect. They also call on the Commission to “explore less intrusive alternatives”.

And it’s not the only department concerned with European Data Protection Supervisor Peter Hustinx calling for more precision and better safeguards for international PNR agreements.

He wants to ensure the collection and conditions for processing and sharing this data is restricted and shares the same profiling risks as the European Parliament.