Tuesday

21st Aug 2018

Opinion

EU plans for big brother data analysis must be nipped in the bud

  • EU home affairs ministers are this week set to consider the new proposals for an EU Passenger Name Record system (Photo: EUobserver)

The ever-creeping drive for more pervasive retention and analysis of private data and big brother-style surveillance looks set to continue in the European Union.

Last week, the European Parliament voted to give the green light to a controversial EU-US agreement on air passenger data. The passenger name record or PNR agreement legitimises the practice of the US Department of Homeland Security in storing and analysing potentially sensitive private information of individuals travelling by air from Europe.

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

The EU-US PNR agreement controversy lasted almost 10 years, with the European Court of Justice and other national courts in Europe having ruled that a previous agreement is in conflict with EU law. The European Parliament echoed these concerns on numerous occasions before finally caving to pressure from EU governments last week.

The terms of the new agreement remain disproportionate, notably the lengthy retention periods for passenger data, the potential of using the data for the profiling of individuals (including sensitive data, for example regarding a religious meal choice or requests for assistance due to a medical condition) and the lack of legal redress. These concerns will now simply be brushed under the carpet by members of the European Parliament who wanted to wash their hands of the controversy.

The intrusive passenger name record saga will not end there however.

Agreements with other third countries are in the pipeline and, worse still, the European Commission has proposed introducing a similar system within the European Union. This week, EU home affairs ministers are set to consider the new proposals for an EU PNR system, as well as rubberstamping the EU-US agreement.

The stated intention of the European Commission is to use the system to identify terrorists and organised criminals, but there is scant evidence that these far-reaching data retention measures do anything to achieve their stated aim of ensuring greater security. What is clear is that they compromise EU citizens' privacy and civil liberties.

The Commission wants to introduce a system along the lines of that in the US, where the US Department of Homeland Protection maintains a register of the data of up to 30 million air passengers. This includes extensive booking-related information from travel agencies and airlines, such as credit card details, mobile phone number, the IP address of the booking process, and hotel or rental car reservations.

There is evidence to suggest that passengers with unusual names or noteworthy dietary requests may already be regarded as suspicious, with those affected having no influence on potentially erroneous evaluations, as they have no right to access the data collected, let alone to correct or delete it.

European home affairs commissioner Cecilia Malmström has sought to play down concerns about the intrusive nature of the proposed EU system. However, the very purpose of such as system is data storage and analysis (or even profiling) in which diverse information is compiled to create profiles of terrorist suspects.

Members of the European Parliament have already expressed their concern about the proposed EU PNR system. The jurisprudence of the European Court of Justice and other national courts with regard to the EU-US PNR agreement suggests that they would also find the Commission's proposals incompatible with EU law.

So, while EU home affairs ministers may push ahead with their legislative deliberations on the proposed EU PNR system, opposition is brewing. With plans already afoot in some EU countries to apply similar data analysis systems to other forms of transport, it can only be hoped that the European Parliament will live up to its role of defending the rights of European citizens and nip these proposals in the bud.

The writer is a German Member of the European Parliament and home affairs expert for the Greens/EFA political group.

Building a Europe more resilient to terrorism

One year to the day since the terror attacks in Barcelona and Cambrils, the commissioner for home affairs spells out what action the EU is taking now to protect against further attacks.

How long can Bulgaria keep facing both East and West?

Sofia may be wearing out its welcome with Western democracies by playing both sides - seeking closer integration in Europe while cosying up to Moscow and Beijing, claiming to work towards hitting EU targets while putting its own interests first.

News in Brief

  1. Italy threatens to return migrants to Libya
  2. MEP accuses Maltese government of 'hate campaign'
  3. EU values not negotiable, German FM tells Poland
  4. Audit warns 840 French bridges at risk of collapse
  5. Fashion king pours money into campaign for second Brexit vote
  6. Germany could aid Turkey, SPD leader hints
  7. UK government set to publish no-deal Brexit advice
  8. Germany and Greece strike deal on taking back migrants

EU's moment of truth in Khan al-Ahmar

EU states have spoken out in strident terms against the Israeli demolition of another Palestinian community - but what are they prepared to do to stop the war crime?

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. ACCACompany Law Package: Making the Best of Digital and Cross Border Mobility,
  2. IPHRCivil Society Worried About Shortcomings in EU-Kyrgyzstan Human Rights Dialogue
  3. UNESDAThe European Soft Drinks Industry Supports over 1.7 Million Jobs
  4. Mission of China to the EUJointly Building Belt and Road Initiative Leads to a Better Future for All
  5. IPHRCivil society asks PACE to appoint Rapporteur to probe issue of political prisoners in Azerbaijan
  6. ACCASocial Mobility – How Can We Increase Opportunities Through Training and Education?
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersEnergy Solutions for a Greener Tomorrow
  8. UNICEFWhat Kind of Europe Do Children Want? Unicef & Eurochild Launch Survey on the Europe Kids Want
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Countries Take a Stand for Climate-Smart Energy Solutions
  10. Mission of China to the EUChina: Work Together for a Better Globalisation
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordics Could Be First Carbon-Negative Region in World
  12. European Federation of Allergy and AirwaysLife Is Possible for Patients with Severe Asthma

Latest News

  1. Wind delays launch of European wind-mapping satellite
  2. Greece 'normal' again after end of crisis, EU says
  3. Putin strikes blow against Russia's isolation by Europe
  4. EU-China cooperation on CO2 storage lost in limbo
  5. Greece exits bailouts, but difficult path ahead
  6. EU gets record response on 'summertime' consultation
  7. 'Nativism' and the upcoming Swedish and Bavarian elections
  8. Former Malta opposition leader fears for his life

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. PKEE - Polish Energy AssociationCommon-Sense Approach Needed for EU Energy Reform
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region to Lead in Developing and Rolling Out 5G Network
  3. Mission of China to the EUChina-EU Economic and Trade Relations Enjoy a Bright Future
  4. ACCAEmpowering Businesses to Engage with Sustainable Finance and the SDGs
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersCooperation in Nordic Electricity Market Considered World Class Model
  6. FIFAGreen Stadiums at the 2018 Fifa World Cup
  7. Mission of China to the EUChina and EU Work Together to Promote Sustainable Development
  8. Counter BalanceEuropean Ombudsman Requests More Lending Transparency from European Investment Bank
  9. FIFARecycling at the FIFA World Cup in Russia
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersOECD Report: Gender Equality Boosts GDP Growth in Nordic Region
  11. Centre Maurits Coppieters“Peace and Reconciliation Is a Process That Takes Decades” Dr. Anthony Soares on #Brexit and Northern Ireland
  12. Mission of China to the EUMEPs Positive on China’s New Measures of Opening Up

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us