The European Parliament has criticized the collection of airline travelers’ data, calling it “intrusive,” as talks between the European Union and the U.S on sharing passenger name records (PNR) continue.
The Parliament has the right to veto any agreement. PNR data is collected by airlines and includes personal information about all passengers coming into and leaving the E.U., including phone numbers, e-mail addresses, travel itineraries and billing information.
Members of the European Parliament have demanded that the European Commission produce evidence that the collection and storage of such information is really necessary. The Commission published revisions to the Data Protection Directive last week, but parliamentarians are concerned that PNR data could be used for data mining or profiling.
However, the Commission argues that the data would be used exclusively to fight terrorism and serious international crime. The Commission’s own Article 29 Working Party for the protection of personal data is in favor of an agreement with the U.S., but stressed the need for high level of security for the transfer of data.
Elsewhere, European Data Protection Supervisor Peter Hustinx has called for more precision and better safeguards for international PNR agreements. “The conditions for collection and processing of PNR data should be considerably restricted. I am particularly concerned about the use of PNR schemes for risk assessment or profiling,” he said.
The Commission has also been accused of putting the cart before the horse by pursuing international PNR agreements with Canada, the U.S. and Australia, before setting up an intra-E.U. equivalent. Such an E.U. system is not scheduled until 2012.