By Joe McNamee

Two years after rejecting the Commission proposal for a Directive on Passenger Name Record (PNR) in April 2013, the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE) is expected to vote again on the adoption of this blanket surveillance measure on 15 July.

The purpose of the Directive is to collect and store the data of air travellers arriving into or leaving the EU (including an amendment that this should also cover intra-EU flights). It is proposed that data will be stored for the entirely arbitrary period of five years, that the data will be compared with unspecified other databases and used to profile all passengers as potential serious criminals. The European Commission has previously defended the proposal on the basis that indiscriminately collecting travellers’ data is “less indiscriminate” than the indiscriminate collection and storage of communications data under the Data Retention Directive.

The EU-PNR proposal was first proposed by the European Commission in 2011. However, it was rejected by the Parliament’s LIBE committee in 2013, presumably because there is no evidence to suggest that it is necessary and proportionate and, therefore, legal. Shortly after, the Parliament asked the Committee to reconsider its position.

The following are some of the reasons why the proposal should be rejected:

The EU should not repeat past mistakes

Fast-tracking these measures after the Paris and Copenhagen terrorists attacks in 2015 will lead to the EU repeating exactly the same mistake it made when adopting the failed Data Retention Directive. As previously explained in our PNR infographic, the LIBE Committee rejected the Data Retention Directive, only for the Directive to be subsequently pushed through following a terrorist attack. It was then declared illegal by the European Court of Justice. Now, after the LIBE Committee rejected the PNR Directive in 2013, it is being pushed through, following terrorist attacks.

Lack of evidence regarding the effectiveness of the PNR profiling

There is simply no evidence showing PNR schemes are an effective anti terrorism measure. There is no evidence that tracking of all passengers and collecting PNR data is necessary or even useful for the fight against terrorism and transnational serious crimes.

Principle at stake

The question is simple. In the absence of any evidence of necessity, of usefulness, of proportionality, is it acceptable to treat every citizen as a potential serious criminal? Is it acceptable to indiscriminately collect individual’s information, storing it in stockpiles of data which will become a security risk in their own right? Is it acceptable that, having made this mistake with telecommunications data retention, the European Parliament looks set to make this mistake again?

We urge you to contact your Members of the European Parliament (MEP) and remind them that privacy and protection of personal data are essential elements of every democratic society. Ask your MEP to support the amendments 48 and 49 in order to make sure that the Commission’s proposal, which evidently undermines key fundamental rights, is rejected.

Jointly written with EDRi intern Morana Perušić

Further reading:

Data retention: EU Commission – guardian and enemy of the treaties (17.12.2014.)
https://edri.org/data-retention-eu-com-guardian-enemy/

“We still need to watch you, really”: PNR back in the Parliament (02.04.2015)
https://edri.org/pnr-back-in-the-ep/

EU-PNR: “Those who don’t know history are doomed to repeat it” (03.06.2015)
https://www.accessnow.org/blog/2015/06/03/eu-pnr-those-who-dont-know-history-are-doomed-to-repeat-it

Article 29 Data Protection Working Party, Opinion 10/2011 on the proposal for a Directive of the European Parliament and of the Council on the use of passenger name record data for the prevention, detection, investigation and prosecution of terrorist offences and serious crime (05.04.2011.)
http://ec.europa.eu/justice/policies/privacy/docs/wpdocs/2011/wp181_en.pdf

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