EU-US data-sharing deals reviewed amid Prism scandal

A European Union team will arrive in Washington, D.C. on Monday to assess how the U.S. is using data it receives from the E.U.

As part of a scheduled review, experts from the European Commission's home affairs department will conduct an examination of the Passenger Name Record (PNR) deal and the Terrorist Finance Tracking Programme (TFTP).

The European Parliament gave its consent Thursday to the possibility of suspending the two data-sharing deals following allegations that the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) bugged E.U. offices in New York and Washington. The NSA's activities have come under the spotlight following revelations about its collection of telecommunications metadata and its Prism program to collect data from a broad range of Internet services.

Parliament's resolution, which was approved by 483 votes to 98 with 65 abstentions, said that the European Commission, the Council of Ministers, and E.U. member states should consider "all levers at their disposal" in negotiations with the U.S., including suspending the current PNR and TFTP arrangements.

Review called routine

But on Friday, Commission Home Affairs spokesman Michele Cercone was keen to underline that the two reviews had been planned long before the current spying allegations associated with the Prism data collection system. The PNR deal entered into force on July 1, 2012, he said, and this review was scheduled.

The bilateral agreement allows U.S. authorities to use PNR data collected by airlines about passengers traveling between Europe and the U.S. to target, identify potential terrorists and terrorist weapons and prevent them from entering the country.

A similar scheme for passengers traveling within the E.U. has been proposed, but was sent back by Parliament in June due to concerns about its disproportionate and far-reaching nature.

Next week's review of the TFTP will be the third such report and all the other reports have been carried out in the same way, said Cercone on Friday. The TFTP provides the U.S. Treasury with data stored in Europe on international financial transfers.

Some members of the European Parliament (MEPs) had called for a halt of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) talks, which are also due to start on Monday, but this measure was rejected.

Meanwhile German MEP Jan Philipp Albrecht said that the current Safe Harbor Agreement between the E.U. and the U.S. should also be reviewed in light of the Prism scandal.

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