EU centers on passenger data in anti-terror fight

AP News
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Posted: Jan 28, 2015 10:29 AM
EU centers on passenger data in anti-terror fight

BRUSSELS (AP) — European Union nations are overhauling anti-terror measures to focus on airline passenger information as part of a strategy to halt the flow of foreign fighters to and from Syria and Iraq.

Spurred by the terror attacks in France, EU interior and justice ministers will address the long-standing debate over how to process sensitive travel information at a two-day meeting starting Thursday in Riga, Latvia.

The EU has so-called Passenger Name Record deals with the United States, Canada and Australia, but in four years of political wrangling has failed to agree on a system for sharing data among its own member countries.

PNR data is information provided by passengers and collected by air carriers during flight reservation and check-in. It contains different types of information like travel dates, travel itinerary, ticket information, contact details, and the means of payment used.

The system would force airlines to provide the authorities with data on people entering or leaving the EU. Officials say it is vital to tracing foreign fighters but opponents want to know how much information is being collected and how long it is being kept.

Given the road block of privacy rights concerns, notably at the European parliament, more than a dozen countries have decided to go it alone.

"Several member states have indicated they will take measures at national level to ensure the safety of their citizens, for lack of adequate action by the EU legislators," the EU's former Italian presidency wrote to President Donald Tusk last month in a letter seen by The Associated Press.

Other measures are in the pipeline too: new airport security screening methods, the vetting and training of security guards, new ways to protect soft targets like supermarkets or sports events.