Latest PNR agreement for the EU thrown out by European Parliament

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Accusations of scope-widening to allow data mining and profiling fly

Brussels, 24/03/2013. A majority of the European Parliament’s Civil Liberties Committee has voted to reject the latest draft Directive on the use of airline Passenger Name Record (PNR) data within the EU. Members of the Committee believe that this latest PNR agreement falls down yet again on key fundamental-rights concerns.

The draft Directive was proposed by the European Commission in February 2011. However the proposal, according to the ALDE group within the Parliament, still fails to incorporate the requests made by the Parliament in 2010, raises concerns regarding its conformity to fundamental rights and disregards the current direction of a coming EU Data protection directive.

The group believes that this latest EU PNR proposal should now be halted and go forward only after the EU Data Protection Directive, currently under discussion, is adopted. Also that both measures should be strictly linked in order to prevent confusion arising between two distinct EU Directives.

The group is particularly concerned over what could be described as deliberate “mission-creep” in the development of this latest PNR Directive. Applicable to travel within the EU, it goes directly against the European Parliament’s 2010 resolution by failing to prevent the use of PNR systems for data mining and profiling.

ALDE spokesperson Sophie in’t Veld (D66, Netherlands) said, “Shaping a European PNR scheme should not be an excuse to widen its scope beyond the fight against terrorism and organised crime, nor to convert it into a tool for searching and profiling unknown suspects.”

She continued, “We haven’t fought to ensure the respect of our rights when it came to vote on the EU/US PNR Agreement and others of this kind only to give in now on the grounds that this proposal applies [only} within the EU.”

Another failing of the draft, according to ALDE, is that it does not guarantee, as requested by Parliament, that forwarding of data to third countries is limited to a specific need and regulated by means of a binding international treaty.

In this, Ms in’t Veld explained, “Even the European Data Protection Superviser and European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights have put into question the respect of this proposal to the principles of ‘necessity’ and ‘proportionality’.” And, “this proposal should not be a way to smuggle out EU data to third countries.”

Concluding, she said that, “The justification behind having an EU action on PNR data was to harmonise national schemes. But for the time being there is only one fully operational PNR scheme in operation – in the UK. Some countries have passed legislation, but have made little progress. Other countries have semi-legal collection of PNR data. We cannot support an EU PNR that, rather than encouraging Member States to establish a generalised PNR collection, de facto leads to a patchwork of different data protection rules for every single EU law enforcement measure.”

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