EU parliament committee votes against air passenger data sharing bill

Proposal to share airline passenger records between EU countries splits politicians

By Jennifer Baker, IDG News Service |  IT Management

European Union politicians are at loggerheads following a vote in the European Parliament on Wednesday that rejected proposals to store and share information on airline passengers.

The Parliament's civil liberties committee voted against plans to share between E.U. countries the PNR (passenger name register) data of airline passengers, including their name, contact details, payment data, itinerary, email and phone numbers.

PNR data is collected by airlines and a current agreement with the U.S. uses information on passengers traveling between Europe and the U.S. to target, identify and prevent potential terrorists and terrorist weapons from entering the U.S. The European Commission had proposed a similar scheme for passengers traveling within the E.U.

Dutch Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) Sophie In't Veld and Jan Philipp Albrecht both welcomed the vote, saying that politicians had put the basic rights of citizens and the rule of law first.

But British MEP Timothy Kirkhope called the vote "irresponsible" and said terrorists, serious criminals and people traffickers could be much harder to track. He accused MEPs of putting "ideological dogma before a practical and sensible measure that would have seriously assisted our fight against crime and terror".

However; Albrecht said in a statement that the system would have led to "mandatory retention and analysis of passengers' private data, flying in the face of the constitutional presumption of innocence".

Sixteen E.U. countries currently have systems in place to collect PNR, but do not share it across borders. The proposals will now go to a vote of the full parliament.

Follow Jennifer on Twitter at @BrusselsGeek or email tips and comments to jennifer_baker@idg.com.

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