Monday, 14 June 2004

G-8 plans air travel data sharing

At the the G-8 summit last week in Sea Island, Georgia, USA, heads of government of the USA, UK, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, and Russia announced a Secure and Facilitated International Travel Initiative (SAFTI) which includes an agreement for “real-time data exchange with respect to … advanced passenger information, while fully respecting applicable personal data protection rules. Interim progress by December 2004, with a view toward beginning implementation in 2005.” The agreement also provides for the G-8 to “Work with ICAO and others to strengthen international standardized practices for passport issuance, and encourage their adoption and implementation by all governments. We will work to effect implementation by the 2005 Summit.”

It remains an open question whether it is possible to share API data (information about airline passengers not required for airlines’ business purposes, but demanded by governments prior to the flight) while respecting existing data protection rules. It’s unclear if the G-8 summit agreement is intended to provide a mandate for changes to national or regional (e.g. European Union) data protection rules, if they are held to prohibit implementation of the SAFTI prgram.

It’s also unclear if the G-8 summit agreement is intended to be self-actuating, or if it will be submitted for ratification to the USA Senate, as is Constitutionally required before any international agreement can be binding on the USA.

Briefing reporters at Sea Island, an unnamed USA government spokesperson (the transcript of the background briefing was released by the White House, but the speakers was identified only as “senior administration officials”) said that SAFTI, “will go beyond the arrangements that we’ve made bilaterally with the European Union on things like advanced passenger information systems and PNR, passenger name record.”

The unnamed USA official also said that the initiative would focus on the mandatory entry into reservations and availability to the government, early in the reservation process, of specific identifying data about each passenger:

We really must look at standards for information gathering and what those data points ought to be. As I mentioned, we need to acquire them as early as possible. One of the things we found … was that we — you don’t get the kind of data you need until very late in the process; that is within that last 60 minutes when someone’s boarding. When that information is incomplete and you try to go through that data, what you find is you have multiple hits against very common names because there’s insufficient identifiers. This pointed out a bunch of things, not only the need to get the information earlier in the process, but the need for very specific points of data on individual passengers.

Although it is characterized in terms of security and “facilitation” (the buzzword used as by ICAO to avoid discussion of the political implications of it recommended standards), the portions of the SAFTI agreement concerned with reservation data seem to be much more in the nature of intelligence sharing. In essence, the SAFTI agreement seems intended to establish a counterpart for airline reservation data collection and sharing between G-8 governments to the UKUSA agreement for electronic and signals surveillance data collection and sharing between the UK, USA, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand.

I’m sure air travellers in the USA will be reassured to know that their reservation details — including enough information to ensure that they can be positively identified and the information about each airline trip added to their poermanent file — will be shared with the government of Russia as soon as they book each flight anywhere within, to, or from a G-8 country, just as travellers from Russia will be reassured to know that the same information about them and their travels is being provided to USA surveillance agencies.

Link | Posted by Edward on Monday, 14 June 2004, 16:48 ( 4:48 PM)
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