Tuesday, 21 March 2006

European legislators challenge secrecy of report on PNR privacy

In May 2004, when the European Commission approved turning over PNR data from European Union airline reservations to the USA Department of Homeland Security (DHS), its approval was conditioned on DHS agreement to permit annual joint audits and reports, by the EU and the USA, on compliance with the restrictions in the agreement on how the data could be used.

Almost two years later, no such report has been made public, although the DHS still has access to all PNRs (not just those related to flights to or from the USA) of every airline that serves the USA.

(In the meantime, as Gus Hosein of the London School of Economics and Privacy International points out in the draft of a forthcoming article on the evolution of travel surveillnace policies, even more intrusive traveller tracking mandates have been proposed within the EU.)

But apparently a secret report has been prepared (no leaks yet of what it says), and EUpolitix.com reports that both the European Commission and four Members of the European Parliament (MEP’s) have asked for its public release.

The deal with the USA was originally negotiated by the European Commissioner for Internal Markets, but responsibility for it was transferred last year to Franco Frattini, European Commission Vice-President for Justice, Freedom and Security. From the time he got this brief, Frattini seems to have given more weight to the data protection and civil liberties implications of turning over travel records to the USA, and he is now reportedly dismayed that the USA has insisted on keeping the annual compliance report secret.

The European Parliament continues its lawsuit against the European Commission in the European Court of Justice, in which the “advocate general” (an officer who, if I understand correctly, has a role somewhat similar to, although perhaps larger than, that of a Federal magistrate in advising a Federal judge in the USA) has already recommended that the EC “agreement” and finding that the USA has “adequate” data protection be voided.

Four individual MEP’s have now sent a public letter to USA Secretary of Homeland Security Chertoff, appealing to him to authorize the release of the annual audit on compliance with the USA-EU agreement on PNR data. Not bloody likely that Chertoff will do so, given his Department’s attitude toward public scrutiny and evaluation of its activies.

Link | Posted by Edward on Tuesday, 21 March 2006, 19:26 ( 7:26 PM)
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