EU deal on passenger data stalls in threat to terror fight

AP News
Posted: Feb 26, 2015 10:09 AM
EU deal on passenger data stalls in threat to terror fight

BRUSSELS (AP) — Delays in setting up a European Union-wide system using air travel information to fight terrorism could lead to a patchwork of schemes that lets suspects slip through the net, officials warned Thursday.

EU leaders early this month called for the urgent adoption of an efficient European Passenger Name Record system to help halt the flow of fighters heading to Syria and Iraq.

But with legislation on hold in the European Parliament for two years now, more than a dozen countries have started looking at developing their own systems.

"Diversity can only benefit those who would do us harm," said British Conservative lawmaker Timothy Kirkhope, who is pushing legislation through parliament against strong privacy concerns. Many lawmakers oppose allowing great quantities of personal data to be swept up and kept for up to five years.

PNR collects 19 pieces of information including travel dates, itinerary, ticket information, or contact and credit card details. The system could oblige air carriers to hand over details to authorities for use in cases of terrorism and serious transnational crime.

The EU has agreed PNR deals with the United States, Canada and Australia but in four years has not be able to agree on sharing data among its own members. Britain is the only EU country with a functioning national system. France, for example, is developing one that is slightly different.

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The EU's Latvian presidency is convinced that one PNR is better than 28.

"It's more efficient, with much better security and fundamental rights safeguards," said Zanda Kalnina-Lukasevica, parliamentary secretary at Latvia's foreign ministry.

The European Commission, which has provided funds for developing national PNRs, is also concerned the systems might not match up.