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Europe debates if passenger information can be used for counter-terrorism measures

MEPs are debating today whether to ratify the EU Passenger Name Record (PNR) proposal outlined in 2011, which would oblige Europe-based airlines to share detailed personal information on any passenger entering or leaving Europe, as an aide to investigations into criminal or terrorist activity.

The 2011 proposal was rejected last April, but Civil Liberties Committee rapporteur Timothy Kirkhope (ECR, UK) has emphasised that threats to the security of the European Union have increased over the last 12 months.

“We must put in place our own EU rules and standards […] as soon as possible” said Mr Kirkhope.

The draft bill was discussed in the Civil Liberties Commission, dividing MEPs, but Kirkhope said that he would ask shadow rapporteurs from other political factions to a meeting regarding possible action. German MEP Jan Philipp Albrecht maintains that PNR offers shallow justification for disclosing private details to law enforcement and other agencies by default.

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The details that would be shared include name and address, phone number, credit card information, itinerary details and email addresses. Albrecht contends that such disclosure may even be illegal.

“Demands for saving passenger data without cause is nothing more [than] a placebo,” says Albrecht. “They try to react to people’s fears at the cost of citizens’ rights and principles of the rule of law. These data will not help finding pretended IS fighters. In many cases, foreign fighters are well-known suspects meaning basic approaches for investigation and threats already exist,”

Director of Europol Rob Wainwright contends that PNR constitutes “reasonable measures” in the fight against terrorism, whilst Dutch MEP Sophie In’t Veld believes that establishment of Europe’s Data Protection Directive would be a necessary pre-requisite to any implementation of PNR.

“They are not sincere,” she said. “They want unlimited powers, they don’t want to be bound by rules or data protection authorities and that’s the reality. Of course police and security services should get the instruments they need to fight crime, but not more,”

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