30th Nov 2022

Elusive deal on passenger data edges closer

A long standing dispute over the use of data on airline passengers crossing the Atlantic may be in the offing, the EUobserver has learned.

According to one European diplomat a deal could emerge "in the next couple of days" over a dispute which has soured transatlantic relations since the US demanded data from European airlines as part of its 'war on terror'.

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US officials told this news site that a deal in such a short period was unlikely, but said it could come by next month.

"I think we will look along the time frame set out by the [European] Parliament", the official said.

Euro-parliamentarians early in September set a two-month deadline for the Commission to stop the transfer of passenger data - as the body charged with 'guarding' the EU's basic laws.

The Parliament expressed concerns that European companies providing Washington with information, in what was essentially a legal black hole, may be breaking EU data protection rules.

After the attacks of 11 September 2001, the US demanded that airlines provide it with electronic access to 39 information fields from the Passenger Name Record (PNR) data, which includes elements like credit card information, addresses and the passengers' meal choice.

This amount of data is seen as excessive by MEPs, and out of proportion to the aim pursued.

Landing gear

It now seems that a deal will be struck which limits the amount of data made available and the length of time it is kept for.

The number of information fields kept and the number of years the data is retained have been cited as areas which are up for discussion.

So too has the type of crimes which appear on the passenger record.

The EU is insisting that only those accused of terrorist offences be brought into the spotlight while Washington wants the agreement to go further.

"We want to see the scope expanded to cover other crimes which may be indicative of terrorist activity", said the US official, pointing out that investigating individuals who have carried out crimes related to cross-border activity may help detect terrorists.

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