Tuesday

22nd Oct 2019

EU 'outdoing Bush' on sea and train passenger-data warning

  • The European Commission impact assessment pointed out in 2011 that unlike airline carriers, most sea and railway carriers did not collect PNR data. Thalys was one of the exceptions. (Photo: calflier001)

The idea of obliging railway and ferry companies to transfer passengers' personal data to national authorities in the EU, as reported this week by EUobserver, shows that Europe is "trying to outdo" former US president George W. Bush, a privacy watchdog has warned.

Documents revealed that a majority of EU member states are open to the idea of expanding the scope of the 2016 passenger name record (PNR) directive, which requires air carriers to provide authorities with passenger data, such as name, address, date of travel, seat number, and baggage information.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

  • A 2014 protest in Berlin against international mass surveillance by the US. The initial PNR for air passengers was brought in by the EU after president George W. Bush, but extending it to trains and ferries was called 'premature' (Photo: mw238)

Bush, president from 2001 to 2009, introduced far-reaching surveillance measures in the US in response to the 11 September terrorist attack on the US in 2001.

"The Bush Administration used the 9/11 attacks to push PNR on a reluctant Europe," Gus Hosein, executive director of Privacy International told EUobserver by email, after this website's report on the plans on Tuesday (6 August).

"Are we surprised that with its current politics, Europe is now trying to outdo the Bush Administration. Is there anything more 2019 than using migration as the crisis now," he said.

The anti-terrorism bill PNR only applies to flights, but EU member states are having discussions about including other modes of transport as well.

The reasons given in documents summarising the debates, were not only terrorism, but also migrant smuggling, drugs smuggling, and other crime.

"After 9/11, we were told that this would only ever be for airline travel," noted Hosein.

"This is proof that once a surveillance system is built, even in response to crisis, it will forever be expanded until all to build a near constant surveillance of all movement across Europe and the world, based on permissions and vetting."

"This policy plays well with intelligence agencies and governments running scared on immigration," added Hosein.

"As we said to the Bush Administration then, and we say to all governments now, this does not end well."

EUobserver asked the European Commission, which is the only EU institution that can propose legislation or amendments to it, whether it had a view on widening the application of the PNR directive to other modes of traffic.

A spokeswoman said that the commission did not comment on internal documents of the Council of the EU - the EU institution where diplomats and ministers representing the 28 national governments meet.

She merely pointed out that the commission is required to carry out a review of how the directive worked in practice.

That review is due by 25 May 2020, less than 10 months away.

Previously seen as 'disproportionate'

When the commission proposed the PNR directive back in 2011, it was not in favour of widening the scope beyond air travel, calling it "disproportionate".

At the time, the commission made an impact assessment, which is still available online.

The assessment compared the options of applying the directive only to air carriers (D1), and to applying them to air, sea, and rail carriers (D2).

Basically, D2 would lead to more security, but at "substantially" higher costs and privacy intrusion.

"Regarding the options in relation to the modes of transport that should be covered by any future measure, policy option D2 whereby the proposed measure would be extended to air, sea and rail carriers presents some advantages for security compared with policy option D1 as it would cover more modes of transport and more passengers," said the commission.

"However, it involves substantially more interference with data protection and more costs for the public authorities and the carriers than policy option D1 under which the measure would be applied exclusively to air carriers."

The impact assessment pointed out that unlike airline carriers, most sea and railway carriers do not collect PNR data.

"For example, some rail and sea carriers collect PNR-like data for instance the Eurostar and Thalys collect some data when the reservation is made online and cruise ships collect some PNR-like data as well," it said.

"On the other hand, ferries and trains other than the Thalys and the Eurostar do not have computerised reservation systems which are similar to those of air carriers."

The commission noted that "the idea behind using PNR data [was] simply to obtain access to the data that is already collected by carriers".

"Since most train and ships/ferry carriers do not normally collect such data, it would be disproportionate at this stage to require them to transmit data to public authorities."

But the commission assessment did not rule out completely that this could change, merely saying that to add sea and rail travel "seems to be premature, at least at this stage."

"Such an extension to sea and rail travel could be considered in the future, once we will have learned from the experiences with PNR collection from air travel," it added.

Individual member states are already allowed to introduce national laws on the collection of passenger data for other modes of transport, as long as those national laws are in line with EU law. At least France and the UK have made provision to do so.

Investigation

EU may extend 'passenger name records' to rail and sea

Documents reveal that EU states are considering broadening requirements on keeping passenger records, currently only applicable to air carriers, to providers of other modes of transport.

News in Brief

  1. Brexit is waste of time and energy, says Juncker
  2. Abortion and same-sex marriage become legal in Northern Ireland
  3. Germany wants internationally controlled zone in Syria
  4. EU parliament refuses to debate Catalonia
  5. Four businessmen charged in Slovak journalist murder
  6. Erdogan accuses EU of 'standing by terrorists' in Syria
  7. Migrants riot in Maltese camp
  8. Spanish PM refuses dialogue with Catalonia president

Stalling on VAT reform costing billions, says Commission

German media outlet Correctiv, along with other newsrooms, have revealed how criminals annually cheat EU states out of billions in VAT fraud. The EU Commission says solutions exist - but member states refuse to budge on tax unanimity.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNESDAUNESDA welcomes Nicholas Hodac as new Director General
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersBrussels welcomes Nordic culture
  3. UNESDAUNESDA appoints Nicholas Hodac as Director General
  4. UNESDASoft drinks industry co-signs Circular Plastics Alliance Declaration
  5. FEANIEngineers Europe Advisory Group: Building the engineers of the future
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNew programme studies infectious diseases and antibiotic resistance
  7. UNESDAUNESDA reduces added sugars 11.9% between 2015-2017
  8. International Partnership for Human RightsEU-Uzbekistan Human Rights Dialogue: EU to raise key fundamental rights issues
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersNo evidence that social media are harmful to young people
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersCanada to host the joint Nordic cultural initiative 2021
  11. Vote for the EU Sutainable Energy AwardsCast your vote for your favourite EUSEW Award finalist. You choose the winner of 2019 Citizen’s Award.
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersEducation gets refugees into work

Latest News

  1. MPs vote on Johnson's latest push for Brexit deal
  2. Macron breaks Balkans promise in quest for EU dominance
  3. Snap elections in North Macedonia after EU rejection
  4. UK opposition MPs attack new Brexit deal
  5. Deep divisions on display over post-Brexit EU budget
  6. Juncker: 'Historic mistake' against Balkan EU hopefuls
  7. EU leaders spent just 12 minutes on climate
  8. Crunch Brexit vote in UK This WEEK

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank
  2. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  3. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness
  4. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  5. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  9. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  10. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic commitment to driving global gender equality
  12. International Partnership for Human RightsMeet your defender: Rasul Jafarov leading human rights defender from Azerbaijan

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us