EU Parliament OK’s Passenger-Profiling Plan

     (CN) — Despite concerns from the EU’s data-protection czar, the European Parliament on Thursday approved a plan to collect personal data from anyone who boards an airplane.
     The European Commission first presented its proposal for the “EU passenger name record” scheme in 2011 as a way to crack down on the threat of terrorism and serious crime. Its proposal would require air carriers flying into the European Union from other nations to transmit passengers’ names and other applicable data to authorities in the member state of arrival or departure prior to boarding and takeoff.
     Following the terror attacks in Paris this past December, parliament and the EU Council reached a deal on the text of the bill maintaining the bulk of the commission’s proposal but also including elements regarding the protection of privacy and personal data of passengers. The lawmakers also added a key provision: the new data collection would also include all flights within the EU.
     The amendments drew a sharp response from the EU data-protection czar, who — while acknowledging the need to bolster security in the wake of the two terror attacks in Paris in 2015 — said the plan went too far.
     “An EU passenger name record scheme would be the first large-scale and indiscriminate collection of personal data in the history of the Union,” European Data Protection Superviser Giovanni Buttarelli said in a statement in December. “Since it is likely to cover at least all flights to and from the EU and may also involve intra EU and/or domestic flights, millions of non-suspect passengers would potentially be affected by the proposal.”
     Despite Buttarelli’s concerns, the parliament approved the plan — including the collection of passenger data from intra-EU flights — on Thursday. The plan next heads to the council for final approval, after which member states will have two years to implement it nationally.
     Parliament on Thursday also passed a data-protection package that includes provisions to make it easier for law enforcement to share information across member-state lines in the effort to quash terrorism and international crime.
     “The data protection directive for police and criminal justice authorities ensures a high level of data protection while improving cooperation in the fight against terrorism and other serious crime across Europe,” commission first vice president Frans Timmermans said following the parliament’s passage of the package. “These new rules come at a time when improved cooperation in the fight against terrorism and other serious crime is more necessary than ever, as shown by the recent terrorist attacks in Paris and Brussels.”
     He added, “These rules are for the benefit of everyone in the EU. Individuals must be empowered: they must know what their rights are, and know how to defend their rights if they feel they are not respected.”

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