Azara Blog: EU and US agree on passenger data deal

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Date published: 2006/10/06

The BBC says:

The US and the European Union have struck a new deal for sharing airline passenger data, after lengthy talks.

The interim agreement will replace a deal struck down by the European Court of Justice in May, which allowed the US its own access to passenger data.

Under the deal, the EU will "push" the data - 34 pieces of information per passenger - to the US, replacing the current "pull" system.
The previous deal lapsed on 1 October when both sides failed to agree on terms for a renewal. The new accord will expire at the end of July 2007.

Negotiations over a permanent deal will begin during an EU diplomatic visit to Washington in November.

Justice ministers from across the EU are scheduled to meet later on Friday to discuss the deal, which could be formally approved next week.

EU Justice Commissioner Franco Frattini said new mechanisms had been agreed to distribute data from airlines to the US.

US officials will no longer be able to "pull" the information - which includes details on credit cards, passports, telephone numbers and even meal preferences - direct from airline computer systems, but will have it "pushed" to them.

The information will be sent to the US Department of Homeland Security, which will "facilitate" any wider distribution among other US counter-terrorism agencies, Mr Frattini said.

Civil liberties campaigners had argued that the amount of information collected is intrusive and that data protection once the details are in the US is weak, the BBC's Jonny Dymond reports.

It was the data protection issue that led to difficulties between the US and the EU.

The US wanted the information made available automatically to a number of different domestic agencies, but the EU wanted to be sure that if the information did move between agencies then it would remain secure, our correspondent says.

Addressing these concerns, Mr Frattini said the new deal allowed easier distribution of data, but would not allow "unconditional direct electronic access" by agencies such as the FBI.

The new "push" system would be tested before the end of the year, Mr Frattini said.

Well at least there has been some agreement. But the EU is rather missing the point. It matters less that the information is passed around several US agencies, more that the way any airline passenger information is treated by the US government is completely flawed. For example, if your name matches the name of any alleged terrorist, then the US government assumes you are a terrorist. All other information, such as where you live, etc., is ignored. (Gee whiz, wonder if the real terrorists change their names now and again.)

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